Beginning on February 22, the Sacramento Bee will no longer produce a print edition on Saturdays. The move comes as newspapers and journalists around the world seek to adapt to a changing media market that has brought tough times for traditional media outlets.
According to a Nov. 19 Bee article by Gary Wortel, president and publisher of the Bee, the Saturday paper will be replaced with an expanded “Weekend Edition” on Fridays and Sundays. Due to this, subscribers will pay the same rate for the six-day-a-week paper.
The Bee is not the first newspaper owned by its parent company, McClatchy, to drop its Saturday print edition. In 2019, the Fresno Bee and the Modesto Bee both switched to online-only coverage on Saturday, as did a number of smaller papers, though a McClatchy spokesperson told the Sacramento Business Journal at the time that there were no plans in place to do the same with the Sacramento Bee.
Erik Olson, an English and journalism teacher at Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove and a former Bee and McClatchy employee, said the move was likely the best option left for the Bee.
“It has cut its staff and newshole (space for news) down significantly since its heyday,” he said. “Saturday readership is traditionally lower, and I’ve seen other newspapers make the same move.
Olson said that he would still recommend a journalism career to his students interested in the area.
“There will always be a need for people who are trained to pursue stories in an honest, ethical and thorough way,” he said. “It’s a rough time for journalists, but we’re still seeing journalists making their way and giving us important stories.”
He also said that journalistic skills can be applied to many other fields, including government and public relations.
“The main advice I would give is to be prepared to diversify,” he said. “Know something about podcasting, video story-telling and blogging in addition to traditional storytelling to be best prepared for an ever-changing career landscape.”
The size and editorial quality of the Bee has decreased significantly in the past years, with the departure of longtime reporters and increasing numbers of errors appearing in the pages.
Due to this, English teacher Matthew Valencich subscribes to the New York Times rather than to the Bee. “I just find that over the years the overall quality of journalism has degraded,” he said.
The Bee also blames a new law, Assembly Bill 5, for its financial necessity to reduce print service. Under the law, employees such as newspaper deliverers and rideshare drivers must be classified and treated as employees rather than independent contractors as under former law. According to the Bee, this would significantly increase delivery costs for the printed paper.
Valencich said he was less concerned by the fate of print newspapers specifically than with the media market in general.
“I am hoping that our free press will stay vibrant because I’m worried about all this public discourse on fake news because I think there’s actually some excellent news out there,” he said.
Olson said he is concerned that a decline in print journalism would degrade the quality of information available.
“Most of the significant news is generated from newspapers, and we need to keep that in mind when we look at the future of newspapers,” he said.
“It is getting increasingly difficult to filter through the noise to find and identify what is true and what is not. I fear that young people will just simply give up trying to find out the truth because it is too exhausting.”