Comstock's magazine 0618 - June 2018 - Page 42

n MEDIA rumor of impending lay- offs circled the newsroom in the weeks before they hit, but the reporters didn’t know the size of the reduction, or who would be targeted. Ed Fletcher, a general assignment reporter at the Sacramento Bee for the past 18 years, was getting ready for work on Tuesday, April 24, when he noticed a Facebook post from his colleague Tom Couzens. “I just received the expected call,” wrote Couzens, a sports editor and 33- year Sac Bee veteran. “I am not sad for me, but for our industry and the thou- sands [that] have been let go.” Minutes later, Fletcher says he received a call from Lauren Gustus, regional editor for McClatchy’s West region, who explained Fletcher's own termination in the context of a great- er restructuring effort by the parent company of the Sac Bee and 30 other newspapers throughout the country. The Sac Bee newsroom has shrunk 63 percent since 2006, down to 105 newsroom staff. This most recent round of layoffs represented a 15 percent re- duction from a year ago. It included 42 | June 2018 20-year sports columnist Ailene Voisin, two business reporters and its canna- bis reporter. Sacramento currently lacks a full-time journalist focused solely on the city's emerging cannabis indus- try, with its rampant black market and startup enforcement agencies. The past year alone saw the Sac Bee replace its publisher and executive editor. A prior round of layoffs, in May 2017, slashed a dozen reporters from the news, arts and sports desks. The recent downsizing is collateral damage to what McClatchy executives call the company’s “digital turn,” as the company focuses on a digital product line while cutting expenses, region- alizing operations and hiring more digital- and data-savvy reporters. The opening of a second virtual and aug- mented reality R&D hub in Sacramento, New Ventures Lab, is a symbol of Mc- Clatchy’s next chapter. Executives do not forecast an end to the print product, at least not pub- licly, but this transformation from a newspaper company to a tech busi- ness marks an unavoidable pivot that plows the elder media firm into a crowded and cutthroat arena. Decades- long journalism careers are suddenly ending as the product enters its unpre- dictable metamorphosis. If successful, McClatchy may ride along the helm of an exhilarating shift in the delivery and consumption of news. If not, Sacramentans could lose their paper of