Tim Grieve, ‘82, works for the McClatchy Company as the Vice President for News, working with editors of the 30 newsrooms that make up the company, such as The Sacramento Bee. He has previously held news-related positions at Salon, Politico, Politico Pro and the National Journal.

Q: How long have you been working at the McClatchy Company?

A: I started at The Sacramento Bee as an intern in 1985 during the summer after my junior year in college. I returned to work at The Bee full time right after graduation in 1986.  I left in 1992 for law school, then returned to McClatchy in the fall of 2015.

Q: Have you had any similar jobs at other newsgroups?

A: From 2003-08, I was a senior writer at Salon, where I covered a presidential race and wrote a popular political blog.

I joined Politico in 2008 and worked there as the congressional bureau chief, assistant managing editor, deputy managing editor and managing editor.  

Along the way at Politico, I launched and became editor-in-chief of Politico Pro – a subscription news service that focused on policy areas like energy, healthcare and technology.  

After six years at Politico, I became the editor of National Journal, which covered politics and policy in Washington. I worked there for about two-and-a-half years before joining McClatchy in the fall of 2015.

All of those jobs were similar in that they involved journalism, and the Politico and National Journal jobs were more similar because they involved building and transforming news organizations for the digital age.

But my work at McClatchy is different because I’m working with journalists in newsrooms around the country.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital news?

A: There are huge advantages to digital. We can get breaking news to readers the moment it happens, and we can get it to them wherever they happen to be.

Today – through Facebook, Twitter, other social media, aggregators and our own platforms – a story can reach millions of readers. That reach dramatically increases the impact of the work that we do.

For the readers, the advantages of digital are also pretty huge.

You have a virtually unlimited amount of news available to you from sources and sites around the world. If you want to know about it, there’s probably a way to find out about it online – no matter where you happen to be.

But there are also some disadvantages. It’s very easy to live in an echo chamber online, choosing only the news outlets that will reinforce your own political views – and sometimes in ways that don’t have a lot of regard for the truth.

Q: What do you think can be done to improve online news, if anything?

A: Digital news is constantly evolving and improving. Each new technological innovation brings new challenges and new opportunities. Over the last decade, journalists have learned to embrace Twitter, Facebook, video, podcasts and a million other things that help get our journalism into the hands of more and more people.

Now, we’re experimenting with new technologies like Alexa and Google Home and immersive video. So there’s a lot of innovation and improvement going on, every single day.

As for the content of the journalism itself, I think journalists must keep doing more to make their work relevant and meaningful in the lives of readers and would-be readers. Sometimes journalists write with ourselves or our sources in mind, without thinking as much as we should about the needs of the reader. We’ve all got to do a better job of that, and we’re working hard on it.

And across the digital landscape, we have to do a better job of helping readers distinguish between real news and fake news. If you want to spread lies, it’s easy enough to give yourself a patina of legitimacy online; you don’t need a printing press or delivery trucks or any of that, just a site that looks vaguely newsy. And with that, you can spread fake news pretty easily, as we saw in the presidential election.  

We’ve got to do more to help readers spot fake news and discourage its spread. Google and Facebook are both working on that, as are news organizations around the country, including McClatchy.  

Readers need to be skeptical too. If a story pops up in your Facebook feed making some kind of outrageous political claim, check it out before concluding that it’s real.Have you heard of the publication before? Have you heard of the reporter? Are there legitimate sources in the story? There are usually some telltale signs that a story is fake. Watch for them.

Q: Have you seen a large increase in the viewership of online news at your company?

A: At McClatchy, our digital readership increased by more than 20 percent last year alone. We currently reach more than 60 million unique visitors per month.

Q: Have you seen increased viewership from high-school students?

A: Our digital readership is growing rapidly, and we’re reaching more and more people through social media.

I think about my own kids (former SCDS students Pete, Jack and Meg): they don’t spend much time reading a print newspaper or digging around the websites of major news organizations, and I don’t think they’ve ever seen a local newscast on television. But they’re incredibly well informed about the world around them because they consume the news in new and different ways – through news alerts, newsletters and news stories that appear in their social media feeds.

Q: What do you think about the addition of news features in social media? 

A: Our journalism reaches a tremendous number of readers through social media, and that’s a good thing. The more people read a story, the more likely it is to have an impact. I’m thrilled when one of our stories takes off on Facebook or Twitter – it shows me that people are engaged with our journalism and want to share it with their friends around the web.

Q: What do you think is the best news source for teenagers? 

A: There’s not a single “best source.” It all depends on what you want and need. For news about SCDS, the Octagon is the best news source I can possibly imagine. For news about Sacramento, nobody’s better than The Sacramento Bee. For national political news, I read stories from McClatchy’s Washington bureau, plus The Washington Post, The New York Times and Politico. All of those are great news sources – for teenagers or for anybody else.

I would encourage young people – and everyone, really – to spend a little time looking not just at particular stories but at the overall offerings of legitimate news organizations. It’s easy to get tunnel vision, learning a lot about a little and missing stories that might introduce you to a different perspective or something you just didn’t know before.

Take a minute to read stories that are on the front page of a newspaper or on the homepage of a news site – not just the one you came for, but the ones next to it that might expose you to things you didn’t know before.

By David Situ

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