Bee Editor Joe Kieta answers reader questions about online commenting, staff hiring

Reporters at work in the Fresno Bee newsroom.
Reporters at work in the Fresno Bee newsroom. Fresno Bee file

Over the last year The Bee has been engaged in a project with Arizona State University’s News Co/Lab, part of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The goal is to become more transparent and open about what we do, how we do it and why we do it.

I’m the editor of The Bee, and two weeks ago, I answered some questions we recently received as part of a community survey. Today, I’ll answer a few more that were gleaned from that survey.

Q. I enjoy commenting on the news … but I am unable to do so on The Fresno Bee’s website because of the policy of requiring a Facebook account. I understand why the policy was adopted, but I think it would be better if it ditched the giveaway to Facebook and just moderated its comments like The New York Times does.

A: The Bee adopted Facebook commenting a number of years ago in an effort to do away with anonymous comments, which frequently were abused. We realize that this limits commenters to Facebook users, and that many people in The Bee’s audience do not use Facebook for various reasons.

While no changes are imminent, we’re always looking for ways to heighten a civil community conversation, and this may include a different commenting platform. Stay tuned.

Fresno Bee Editor Joe Kieta. Joan Barnett Lee Fresno Bee file

Q: You seem to be hiring some quality younger reporters lately. How is that changing The Bee, particularly in the face of a tighter budget?

A: Reporters who identify as millennials are well represented in The Bee’s newsroom, working alongside veterans who have decades of experience. I agree that The Bee has hired some amazing young journalists, and the impact is substantial. They are aggressive, smart and committed to getting the story right. I’m proud of the work they produce.

Ideally, The Bee’s newsroom should be as diverse as the community it serves. That is a work in progress, as we try to become more reflective of the makeup of Fresno and the region with every hiring opportunity.

Q: Are you going to quit printing the paper? I love to read it in print!

A: The simple answer is “no.” The Bee is fortunate to have a large and dedicated audience that is willing to pay for a printed newspaper, and we’re dedicated to serving this audience.

That said, the print edition is not adding many new readers, and we have to find new ways to reach an audience that wants local news on smartphones, tablets and other devices. In the past decade the newsroom has dramatically changed how it operates; now we put the digital readership at the forefront. In the past, everything we did was geared toward producing a daily printed newspaper, and deadlines were set up to achieve this. Today, there really is no deadline; stories are produced and posted online as news happens. This is an incredible boon to the reach of our journalism. In the digital era, we get millions of page views per month, and readership is not limited to people living in the central San Joaquin Valley. At the height of print circulation, our Sunday edition accounted for about 200,000 copies. We can also now include new forms of storytelling, such as video and audio, on our website, www.fresnobee.com; that never have occurred in the print era.

Here is another question we regularly get asked by readers:

Q. Why is The Bee so biased? Look at all the liberal letters to the editor. You really have lost sight that Fresno is in a conservative part of California.

A. Actually, we publish many conservative letters to the editor. But on a given day, there may be more liberal letters than conservative ones. We try to publish the letters in the order we receive them — and we get a lot of letters each month, so there is always a backlog we have to work through. As for conservative commentary appearing on our opinion pages, we regularly publish Victor Davis Hanson, Ruben Navarrette and Cal Thomas — three conservative writers who argue against the liberal ideas of the day. Our goal is to fairly represent conservative and liberal views on our editorial page.

I welcome the chance to hear from you, so send me a note at jkieta@fresnobee.com.