Comstock's magazine 0618 - June 2018 - Page 43

record. The Sac Bee is often slammed by readers for floundering in its public watchdog role or swinging too far to the left. But even when those gripes are valid, the consequences to losing a pa- per of record are incalculable. Doctors are regularly sued for malpractice, but nobody wants to live in a community without a hospital. The Sac Bee is al- most as old as the city itself. Its demise would be an alarming blow to civic transparency, says Dan Walters, who worked as a Bee columnist for 33 years. If the daily newspaper goes away, “The people in the school board and the administration and the unions will feel free to do any damn thing they want to because they know nobody’s looking over their shoulder,” says Walters, who now works for the journalism nonprofit CALmatters. “That’s what gets lost.” Locally Rooted Legacy With a 161-year history in Sacramento, McClatchy is one of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, with 30 newspapers across 14 states. More people than ever are reading its journalism: While its daily newspaper circulation has fallen by 52 percent over the past decade, the number of visitors to McClatchy web- sites has grown significantly over that time. On average, McClatchy fetches over 75 million unique page views each month, up almost 200 percent from a decade ago. But McClatchy’s revenue has fallen by approximately 60 percent since its peak in 2007, and the company has endured annual losses for the past three years. The publicly traded com- pany has become a case study for the troubles of the American newspaper, joined by other signature newspaper institutions of California. This year alone, the Los Angeles Times unionized following years of downsizing. Digital First Media, which owns 16 regional papers in California including San Jose’s The Mercury News, cut a third of Above: A paper boy delivers the Sacramento Bee in 1950. photo : courtesy of center for sacramento history sacramento bee collection Below: Eleanor McClatchy led the company for over 40 years, from 1936-1978. photo : courtesy of mcclatchy June 2018 | comstocksmag.com 43