Answers to questions about news coverage, commentaries and columnist Marek Warszawski

The Fresno Bee newsroom, with columnist Marek Warszawski in the foreground.
The Fresno Bee newsroom, with columnist Marek Warszawski in the foreground. Fresno Bee file

The Fresno Bee is committed to producing the highest quality local news and opinion journalism for the region it serves. Every day, editors and reporters make dozens of decisions about coverage and content that together impact the news you consume.

Our goal is to be as transparent as possible about our work and to more fully explain the “why” behind it. We recently started a “frequently asked questions” list to help clear up some of the mystery behind the local news ecosystem. You have questions — and we’re answering more today:

Q: Fresno Mayor Lee Brand announced on a local radio show his decision not to seek a second term. He said the show’s host, Ray Appleton, had been more fair and impartial than any other media in town. Is that back-handed criticism of The Bee?

A: The mayor can announce his news to whomever he wishes. As it was, our city beat reporter, Brianna Calix, knew what was happening and had a news alert ready within seconds of Brand’s announcement, and she followed up with separate stories on Brand, as well as two new potential contenders for his job — current police Chief Jerry Dyer and City Councilman Luis Chavez. She had previously covered an announced candidate, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Janz.

As for being fair to Brand or not: Fairness can be in the eye of the beholder, and many feel that any coverage that reveals unflattering information is somehow “biased.” I believe we have been scrupulously fair to the mayor in our news coverage. But remember, it is not our role to be a cheerleading service for the mayor or any other local politician or group. We ask tough questions of local leaders and we verify what we are told. We have sought the mayor’s side and reported it in any stories where he is part of the news. Our opinion editorials have also noted his positions, even if we have disagreed with them. That also goes for our local news opinion columnist, Marek Warszawski, who has been critical of Brand.

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Fresno Bee Editor Joe Kieta. Fresno Bee file

Q: Why is Marek Warszawski so biased against conservatives and their values? He really skews your news to the liberal side.

A: There is confusion on the part of many readers about just what Marek does. He is a local news columnist, meaning he offers insightful commentary on local news events that catch his attention. By definition, he is meant to share his opinion. It is not the official editorial viewpoint of The Bee — that appears in the opinion section of our website, www.fresnobee.com, and in the newspaper. Marek can be “fair” or not — it is up to him, so long as he does not twist facts or violate professional standards. Is he biased? Absolutely — that is by design. We think that his lively writing and opinion sparks debate and encourages others to speak up in favor or disagreement, which is part of what we hope to do as a local news source.

Q: What if a reader disagrees with The Bee or Warszawski?

A: Share your views in a letter to the editor or online comment. Letters should not exceed 200 words and can be emailed to letters@fresnobee.com. Opinion Editor Tad Weber chooses the letters to publish, and he has a generous approach because he wants a robust discussion of the issues of the day. Other rules: No profanity. No poetry. Keep name calling to a minimum. Include your phone number and address for verification purposes.

“The best letters are those thoughtfully written that add a new insight to an issue,” Weber says. “Letters that simply poke fun at someone — like the person occupying the White House — don’t add much to anyone’s understanding, so I am not too keen on those.”

Many newspapers across America have stopped publishing letters to the editor because of the time it takes to review and prepare them. The Bee remains committed to publishing letters as part of its local news mission.

Q: What is an editorial page and why does The Bee have one?

A: A time-honored tradition in American newspapering is to have a space devoted to the paper’s views called the editorial, or opinion, page. The Bee devotes a full-time staff member, Opinion Editor Weber, to write our opinion in concert with the agreed-upon view of our editorial board. That consists of myself, Weber, Publisher Tim Ritchey and members Juan Esparza and Maria Ortiz-Briones. The board discusses issues of the day and what kind of position The Bee will take.

Weber also handles letters to the editor as well as choosing op-eds, which are community or national viewpoints that are longer than letters. Op-eds have a length limit of 700 words.

The Bee publishes its opinion as part of its leadership role in the community. Our mission is to inform and advocate for the advancement of life in the Valley. The editorial board will frequently invite experts or candidates to The Bee to interview before reaching an educated opinion. We try to offer readers a strong view for their consideration. During election season, the board interviews candidates for races and then makes a recommendation for voters to review.

Naturally, readers have many opinions about our opinions — and that’s by design. If we’re doing our jobs the right way, The Bee is a place where this region’s most important issues can be debated in a constructive environment where all voices are heard. That’s the power of opinion journalism.

I welcome your thoughts and questions. You can reach me at jkieta@fresnobee.com.