Stuart Leavenworth: Final thoughts on opining, and the next big chapter

12/01/2013 12:00 AM

11/29/2013 7:49 PM

Ok, Leavenworth, this is your exit interview. Ready to get started?

I suppose – if we have to.

So you’ve worked at The Sacramento Bee for ... 14 years?

That’s correct. I started as a reporter in the newsroom, covering growth and development and then natural resources. I joined the editorial board in 2004, just in time to comment upon California’s decision to make Arnold Schwarzenegger governor. In 2009, I took a sabbatical and worked as a chef apprentice in the Bay Area. For reasons that still astound me, the Powers That Bee decided that working as a kitchen slave was good preparation for becoming editorial page editor.

It’s all about making sausage, right?

Hey, no jokes about sausage. That’s one of my favorite things to make.

What about the job has given you the most satisfaction?

So many things. I love working with writers, those on staff and in the community. We’ve attracted many new voices to the pages. I’ve tried to sharpen the edge of our editorials, while still giving people ample opportunity to rebut our opinions. I’m proud The Bee devotes more space to letters and “Another Views” than any newspaper in California. I’m proud we have a six-page California Forum section on Sundays, rare for many papers these days. I’m proud we have a staff cartoonist. I’m proudest when we’ve been a strong voice for our community and our state.

Examples?

Advocating for local parks. Advocating for sensible regional planning. Advocating for farmland preservation and local farmers. Pushing for greater transparency in government. I love it when our columnists devote themselves to causes they are passionate about – Dan Morain on the state’s tattered mental health system, Foon Rhee advocating for veterans services. Despite being labeled a “liberal” editorial board, we’ve crusaded for years for fiscal responsibility, including sensible pension policies for public employees. We’ve done this not because we are “anti-labor,” as some critics claim, but because ever-growing costs for pensions take away money that could go to improving services and hiring public employees.

What has been most difficult for you?

Strong opinions tend to trigger strong reactions. Sometimes I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty stuff. On the other hand, I’m incredibly grateful to live in a country where people can challenge authority and express strident opinions with little fear of the consequences.

So what are you going to do in China?

My wife, Micaela, and I are moving to Beijing, where I’ll be McClatchy’s correspondent, covering China and other parts of Asia. I suspect I’ll have no shortage of topics to pursue and no shortage of challenges in pursuing them. My work will be transmitted through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service, where it will be available to MCT’s 1,200 media clients.

So your stories will appear in The Bee?

Yes. Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar has promised me that each one will appear on the front page. (Joke.)

Any last thoughts?

Yes. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work at The Bee, and to live in Sacramento and Northern California. It seems like every week I meet someone who is doing new and interesting work for the community. It’s a place that feels like home. I’ll be back, at some point. For now, zàijiàn.

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