Across the Universe: As Bob Dylan sang, ‘the times, they are a-changin’ (opinion)
When I first started my professional career as a general assignment reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza in July 2007, I was two months removed from college and, for all intents and purposes, absolutely clueless about the real world.
More than nine years later, some of you may still hold that same opinion.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen a ton of change at the Bonanza and Sierra Sun. Back in 2007, both properties boasted a total newsroom staff equivalent to 24.5 full-time employees; the Sun’s print edition was five days a week, and the Bonanza was three; each paper had its own website; and in some cases, we actually competed for coverage with each other.
I recall several times both papers’ editors sending reporters and photographers to the scene of the same accident in Kings Beach, or to cover the same meeting in Incline, Truckee or Tahoe City about an issue that impacted both our readerships. Looking back from a business standpoint, the levels of redundancy were glaring.
Nowadays, post-Great Recession, we’ve condensed the Sun and Bonanza into one overarching operation internally, and our full-time news staff equates to four individuals responsible for putting out three print editions a week and managing one website, among a bevy of unseen responsibilities.
We’ve made plenty of other changes, too many to count here, and some of you have been more than willing to criticize us for those changes over the years and months. And that’s just fine — after all, in the world of newspapers and media, allowing opinions and criticism in a public forum is a two-way street, and we’re to be held just as accountable as the public figures you elect to office and to whom you entrust your livelihoods.
It’s in the sake of transparency, then, that I share with readers another change. On April 1, 2017, I’ll be stepping down as editor and co-general manager of the Sun-Bonanza.
Recruiting for the editor position began earlier this month, and we expect to hire or promote from within a talented, ambitious and innovative editor by that time, if not sooner. We hope to make the transition as smooth as possible for those of you addicted to Tahoe-Truckee news and information, both in print and digitally.
If you have any questions about the position — or, more importantly, recommendations on how we can improve — please email Ben Rogers, our advertising director and co-general manager, at email@example.com.
As for me, my girlfriend and I are moving in together in Reno, thus a need for a new role that’s not beholden to covering a community where I live.
I will be transferring to a new position with our parent company, Swift Communications, that involves content oversight of our high-end magazines at Lake Tahoe — Tahoe Magazine and Lake Tahoe Home — while taking on additional duties. Our magazines continue to grow, and we’re beyond excited for the opportunities ahead.
I have served as managing editor of both papers for roughly eight years, and while living in Tahoe Vista, Incline Village and most recently Truckee, I have wholeheartedly enjoyed working with our incredible staff and the countless important members of the community here who work so hard to drive change.
That said, from a financial standpoint, our operation is wrapping up its best year ever since the recession, and now is the right time for a fresh editorial face to lead our media company into an exciting era of flourishing digital opportunity and resort market news coverage. We are very much set up for continued success.
SPORTS COVERAGE MOVING FORWARD
In related news, I have had several recent conversations via email, on the phone and in person with community members about our lack of local sports coverage recently in the Sun and Bonanza.
The simple reason for this is because we are amid a period of staff transition within the newsroom, and due to that, we have been down 66 percent of our news staff across both the Bonanza and Sun papers since early November. In reality, it means we have one full-time reporter instead of three.
Because of that, we have to make tough decisions in an effort to prioritize work, and at the end of the day, we do need to focus our limited resources on news instead of sports.
We are recruiting heavily to replace the position dedicated to sports coverage, and once he or she is hired, we will be able to again publish online and in print sports coverage supplied by parents, coaches and the community.
Now, as things tend to happen in a small community, I’ve been told rumors are rampant that we’ve made the decision to ax sports coverage entirely.
This is simply not true — we are definitely not making a decision to eliminate prep sports coverage, or other athletic event/race/outdoors coverage.
As a former sports editor myself, I understand the positive impact coverage of local sports has on our families, our schools and on the athletes themselves. We just need time to put the right staff in place, which we aim to accomplish by January, and I ask that you bear with us during this transition.
In a perfect world, we would be seamless with staff turnover — but the modern era of media is anything but perfect, and we need to be careful when recruiting to ensure we have the best employees and digital-savvy journalists on board to tell your stories. The old business adage of “fire quickly, hire slowly” has never been more important.
With that, I welcome any thoughts, questions and concerns you may have about any of the above information; please do not hesitate to email, call or comment on social media.
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call his desk at 530-550-2652.