Comstock's magazine 0618 - June 2018 - Page 44

n MEDIA THIS TRANSFORMATION ... MARKS AN UNAVOIDABLE PIVOT THAT PLOWS THE ELDER MEDIA FIRM INTO A CROWDED AND CUTTHROAT ARENA. McClatchy CEO Craig Forman 44 | June 2018 its total statewide editorial staff. While the nation’s largest newspapers have experienced large boosts in digital subscriptions following the election of President Donald Trump, overall cir- culation for U.S. daily newspapers has dropped every year since 1988, accord- ing to the Pew Research Center. But the widespread malaise hang- ing over the news industry was clear from the air on a bright day in mid-May, when McClatchy celebrated the launch of New Ventures Lab. The space is to be a high-tech testing ground where journalists and technologists can ex- periment with virtual and augmented reality — two developing mediums that cast users into computer-simulated en- vironments. Wine flowed as local tech luminaries and city officials explored the “video lab” at the newly-renovated train depot, with representatives from Google, Facebook and YouTube in the mix. Attendees tried on Oculus VR headsets to view samples of upcoming McClatchy projects. Stickers featuring McClatchy’s new slogan, #ReadLocal, were scattered across black-clothed tables. Wearing a dark suit and clear-rimmed eye- glasses, McClatchy CEO Craig Forman addressed the crowd, linking this new venture to the com- pany’s commitment to local journalism. He de- scribed Meghan Sims, who is leading the NVL project, as the innovative heir to Eleanor McClatchy, the third-generation fam- ily leader who lifted the company to greater prom- inence throughout the mid-20th century. "We’re deeply com- mitted to this city and to independent journal- ism in the public interest,” Forman told the crowd. “This space demonstrates our dedication to inno- vation and reinvention.” Even if the digital turn proves suc- cessful and McClatchy can stabilize its revenue and expand again, the turn- around will bookend an American staple. If you lived in Northern Califor- nia at any time over the last 150 years, the internet was delivered to your door- step every morning, and it came in the form of the Sacramento Bee. At its height in 2004, the paper’s daily circulation reached almost 300,000. Throughout the 20th century, the Bee (including the Fresno Bee and the Modesto Bee, which were launched in the 1920s) ex- tended to nearly 100 small towns and cities, with stringers writing dispatch- es from across the Central Valley. At its height, the paper could be found in newsstands from the Oregon border to San Diego. Love it or hate it (and there have always been haters), the Bee was fundamental to the California experi- ence. People would start reading the front page over breakfast, then resume at a coffee shop or work. The newspaper was ubiquitous from city to city. In the Sacramento region, disc jockeys read the Bee’s reporting aloud on local radio stations during the day, and television news anchors did so at night. “It was information, opinion, news, comics for the kids, [baseball] box scores. It was a real part of life for ev- eryday people,” says Steve Wiegand, author of Papers of Permanence: The First 150 Years of The McClatchy Com- pany, in an interview with Comstock’s. As the city matured, the Sac Bee guided some of Sacramento’s most vital public conversations. It fought for the creation of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District after locals felt slighted by PG&E. It covered the earliest dis- course that preceded the statewide water plan. More recently, the paper broke news surrounding the Oroville Dam crisis, the killing of Stephon Clark