Joyce Terhaar

From the Executive Editor: Staff changes will shape Bee's coverage

Joyce Terhaar
Joyce Terhaar

I first met Tim Swanson when he stopped by The Bee's newsroom to interview me for a piece in Sactown Magazine. He was bright and engaging, the kind of journalist I'm always looking to hire.

That was in 2011. Swanson was running the journalism department at American River College after working at the Los Angeles Times as its film editor, and freelancing in his spare time.

Today I'm happy to tell you he's The Bee's new features editor.

Swanson grew up in Sacramento, then spent the better part of two decades in Oregon and various cities in California as he worked his way through college (Willamette University), grad school (UC Berkeley), and writing and editing jobs focused on covering movies, television, music and digital entertainment.

When he decided to move back to Sacramento in 2010 he turned to teaching, something he first tried at UC Berkeley.

"Witnessing the light-bulb moment when a student realizes that a reporter's notebook is actually a license to ask questions and indulge curiosity was an inimitable experience," Swanson said. "But for me, there's simply no substitute for the energy and vitality you feel in a professional newsroom when you're collaborating with talented reporters, editors and designers. There's nothing else like it."

Swanson is one of several journalists to join The Bee early this year who bring passion and energy that will help shape our coverage every day. A week ago we introduced to you Jack Ohman, our new political cartoonist, who comes to us from the Portland Oregonian. Today I'll tell you about new staff and new roles that better position us to publish coverage on multiple platforms, so you can read us however it best suits you.

In his new role, Swanson is in charge of the lighter side of our operation. While some are out covering murder and mayhem, Swanson will be directing writers whose jobs demand they be clever or even hip, and that they write stories that enrich readers' lives. They cover food and travel and books and so much more to introduce you to all that is interesting in this region.

"At best, feature writing does more than just inform us about our interests and aspirations. It does more than just identify and contextualize cultural moments both big and small," Swanson said. "It uses narrative and character and emotion to connect us to one another. And that to me is what ultimately makes journalism – and feature writing in particular – so powerful."

Swanson joins several other topics editors on staff: Dan Smith, our Capitol Bureau chief; Mary Lynne Vellinga, our business editor; Maury Macht, our local news editor; and Tom Couzens, our sports editor.

All five will be working with key senior editors to deliver news and stories that reflect a sense of place whether you read us in print, desktop, smartphone or tablet.

Publishing on multiple platforms means we need to change the way we work within the newsroom. To lead that change we created a key new role, that of multiplatform news editor. Longtime Bee journalists Linda Gonzales and Nathaniel Levine are moving into that role, and will work closely with Scott Lebar, who was named managing editor on Wednesday. Their mandate: Identify each day's top stories, and when and where those stories should be published.

Gonzales has spent nearly two decades putting together either the print or digital editions of The Bee. Now she will pay attention to both, and she brings sharp news judgment to this role.

"We're recognizing how readers' needs are evolving – they want their news and information 24/7 and in a variety of ways," she said. "I'll focus on creating a quality experience on each of those platforms."

Levine is a visual journalist with strong computer skills. Like Gonzales, he will work with topics editors across the newsroom to make decisions about top stories and best ways to package our coverage.

"It's an exciting time to be involved in journalism. There's never been as many avenues to get news to our readers, and each new avenue seems to create more storytelling opportunities," Levine said.

Levine will be working closely with Daniel Hunt, now of the Orange County Register, who will join us in a design role in early February. Hunt is a journalist of today, as comfortable writing code as designing print pages, and I expect he will have impact in a variety of platforms.

Together, these journalists are creating evolution, even as they remain committed to our core journalism values to watch the powerful, connect the community and serve up interesting information all day, every day.