Joyce Terhaar

From the Executive Editor: Why we are all over the Kings saga

Joyce Terhaar
Joyce Terhaar

The Bee has published a front page story about community efforts to keep the Sacramento Kings in town about 40 times this year.

That's a lot – and it's just a small piece of our reporting on this ongoing story.

Tony Bizjak, Dale Kasler and Ryan Lillis have spent many of their waking hours breaking news on this story, as well as working to give Sacramentans context about city spending plans, the impact on downtown and many other issues.

They've been joined at times by columnists Marcos Breton, Ailene Voisin and even Dan Walters, who more typically writes about Capitol politics. Reporters including Phillip Reese, Mark Glover, Debbie Arrington and Marcus Crowder have at times weighed in, as has our Editorial Board and its Senior Editor Dan Morain. And I haven't mentioned yet the sports reporting by Kings writer Jason Jones or Joe Davidson.

That part of our coverage is visible to you. Add in the supporting work throughout the newsroom and the cast of journalists on this story grows large. Business Editor Mary Lynne Vellinga is the primary editor, joined by senior editors Ken Chavez (local) and Deborah Anderluh (investigations and enterprise). Our multimedia, graphics, design and copy editing staffs are fully involved. Our digital desk works closely with Vellinga to ensure that we are alerting readers to breaking news and posting stories as fast as possible.

Why so much effort?

"We have approached it as more than just a sports story. There's a big public dollar investment potentially. It could potentially change the way Sacramento is seen in terms of its business climate and the type of investors it can attract," Chavez said.

The story involves many subjects – public finance, private investment, commercial development, downtown growth and, yes, entertainment and major league sports for the region. So our reporting team has varied expertise: Kasler is a business and economics reporter; Bizjak covers urban affairs and transportation and previously covered Sacramento city; Lillis now is on the city beat.

Vellinga is a natural to run this story, with a reporting background in business, urban affairs, development and politics before she began editing. She starts most days talking through reporting strategy with Kasler, Bizjak and Lillis. They're passionate about this coverage.

They're also able to have some fun, rating investors by wealth from whales to minnows or maybe a dolphin (note the mammal to fish comparisons; I didn't list biology as an expertise).

"Symbolically for the region, having a sports team is important," Vellinga said. "Beyond that, if they stay and these people invest in downtown, it could have a profound impact on Sacramento. Right now it represents a level of interest in Sacramento by wealthy people I've never seen.

"A lot of people think this is about sports, and to me it's not about sports. We have to be careful to make sure that whatever the city does do, we have an eye on that and it's done responsibly," she said.

The proposed development downtown would be one of the largest such undertakings in the region, dwarfed perhaps only by the new airport terminal, Vellinga pointed out. That means even if the NBA decides to keep the Kings in Sacramento, this story doesn't go away. We'll continue to pay attention to the public investment and development decisions.

"I had a call from one gentleman who asked me to please stop" with all the coverage, Chavez said. "I had to tell him, 'I'm sorry to disappoint you but we are going to have another Kings story tomorrow.' "

Reach Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar at (916) 321-1004. Follow her on Twitter @jterhaar.