Bill Bradley, the sports editor of the Sacramento Bee, was nice enough to answer some of our questions for another addition of the Sactown Inquisition. The interview follows.
Sactown Royalty: This year has seen a huge shake-up on the sports pages of The Bee with respect to Kings coverage - Scott Howard-Cooper is back covering the NBA, Mark Kreidler parted ways, Marcos Breton flipped over to the Metro section when R.E. Graswich left, Marty McNeal has seen his role change. Where is your sports section, in terms of quality, as compared to last year?
Bill Bradley: I don't think can you say you have improved any time you've lost respected professionals. However, we are stronger in the core beat coverage than ever because of someone you didn't mention: Sam Amick. Sam continually breaks news on the beat and is impressive with his work with sources, and is already respected around the country as a dedicated beat writer. Scott Howard-Cooper has come back on the NBA beat with a vengeance and I think we have improved in that area because we missed his contacts and his NBA knowledge. And Marty's role hasn't really changed the past two seasons; he has been writing Marty Mac's World for almost 18 months. But Marty is doing something new the past few months -- podcasts and videocasts. They have really added a different side to our Kings coverage and our readers have told us they appreciate his insight in our multimedia offerings. By the way, R.E.'s departure didn't affect the Kings coverage at all; he had left sports many years ago.
StR: We've seen the start of web-only content from The Bee sports section, with blogs and podcasts. But the updates are very sporadic and most of the features don't seem to have gained too much traction. Where is The Bee's online presence in comparison with where you'd like to be? What exciting additions to the web presence can we expect? Has the general explosion of web-only coverage from the major players (ESPN) and independent sites/blogs changed anything about the way you cover the Kings?
Bradley: First, I do think we will be giving the reader something new next season: If all goes well, we will have post-practice and pre-game reports exclusively at Sacbee.com. So, in many ways, we will be offering the readers an improved Kings product. And I would disagree with you as far as traction on our online presence. First, Sam's blogs -- especially when they have been linked at Hoopshype.com and other places -- have outdrawn most of the stories at our Web site -- news and sports. As far as the updates go, whenever there is a transaction or a game result it automatically goes up on the Web with, hopefully, a staff story. If a wire story is only available, then a staff story replaces it as soon as possible. In fact, Sam writes a game story at home games that is posted on the Web within 10 minutes after the final buzzer. As far as other Web features, our daily poll numbers skyrocket any time it is on a controversial Kings subject -- 1,000 or more votes. That said, our Web plans are very much evolving. We want to improve our Web presence. Like I said, we are looking at practice reports, but we may be giving Sacbee's Kings home page a whole new look at some point. Yes, ESPN or Sportsline or, for that matter, SactownRoyalty.com, has affected what we do on the Web. However, none of those entities have reporters dedicated to the one subject our readers care about most, the Kings and that's something we try to leverage every day.
StR: How does working in a one-paper town affect your decisions on what to do with scoops? Is your policy to go straight to the web with major stories, or do you hold off if you think the national media or local broadcasters won't get to it?
Bradley: There is no such thing as holding a scoop any more. The news industry has changed and we have to change with it. Once we find a morsel of news on the Kings we have to put it on the Web. The best example is when Scott Howard-Cooper broke the story on Nov. 16 that Chris Webber wanted a trade. Nobody else had this but after Chris told Scott this at a 76ers shootaround, we put it on the Web immediately, ticking off the Philly beat writers. And there is no such thing as a one-newspaper town any more, either, at least in terms of pro sports. I like to tell my reporters that their competition is the scroll running across the bottom of ESPNews. We can't be beaten by that scroll; we know the market, ESPN doesn't.
StR: As the arena measure crashed and burned, did you see a change in the way the franchise dealt with your reporters, given the perception of negativity seen as coming from The Bee?
Bradley: I really didn't see a change in the way were treated; I saw other media outlets treat us differently, pretty rudely, in fact. But not the Kings media personnel, who were unchanged in they try to herd the media in a relatively small market. Despite perception, we didn't cover the election negatively; we covered it aggressively. There was nobody else in the media asking questions about the lease arrangement or comparing it to others around the country. We uncovered some very odd things about the arrangement that the voters had to be informed about. I would love a new arena here; I've seen the majority of the major arenas and ballparks in this country and Arco is clearly in the top five worst arenas I've seen. I truly believe that a new arena not only keeps the Kings and the Monarchs, but it brings in an AHL franchise and an Arena Football team, namely the Rattlers. I'm not sure if you know it, but we can't have either of those franchises because the ice rink, which is woefully outdated, is built cross-ways under the basketball court, meaning it takes days for the changeover. Regardless, The Bee helped to show that the arena deal put to the voters was in worse shape than Arco's ice rink.
I'm going to have to politely disagree with Bradley's thoughts on The Bee's Web presence. Yes, Amick has been a diamond and his blog is a great source. But he's written two posts since April. It's not some sort of golden calf. And I can't recall one person ever telling me "You've got to check out Marty Mac's podcast, it's great" -- and I get emailed a dozen links a day from readers.
When he talks about competing media treating The Bee badly, I'm 99% sure he means KHTK 1140 AM. There's some tremendous bad blood there, bad blood no one will talk about on the record but which I'm going to write about soon nonetheless. It's a strange situation -- KHTK, and Grant Napear in particular, has a tight relationship with Maloof Sports and there's a lot of company politicking that has gone on between the parties.
Anyways, thanks again to Bill for talking to us.