Fresno Bee executive editor Joe Kieta is leaving the hive.
“(I will) leave The Fresno Bee and McClatchy in late spring. I’m proud of our accomplishments, which include change-making journalism and the establishment of donor-supported reporting labs that have added back important reporting firepower,” Kieta wrote on Twitter.
— Center for Cooperative Media (@CenterCoopMedia) November 5, 2021
Kieta joined The Fresno Bee in 2018 following the retirement of executive editor Jim Boren in 2018.
Battled Nunes, Newsroom Budget Cuts
Most famously, Kieta stood toe-to-toe with former Congressman Devin Nunes during the Tulare Republican’s relentless attacks and lawsuits against mainstream media outlets.
The Bee angered Nunes by publishing a story about a lawsuit against a winery that Nunes was financially invested in. Both the story and Nunes’ later lawsuit against The Bee’s parent company drew national attention to the paper.
Tasked with leading the local papers as McClatchy emerged from bankruptcy, Kieta oversaw cost-cutting moves that saw several longtime Bee reporters and editors exit. Circulation declined, as the paper relied more on digital delivery.
The Bee also lost its physical locations, moving away from its longtime building at 1626 E Street (since sold to the city of Fresno). The paper leased space briefly from technology and real estate company Bitwise before that deal went sour. Reporters and editors now work remotely.
Under Kieta’s watch, The Bee relied on nonprofit organizations to supply reporters, including Fresnoland — using “documenters” to report on government meetings, even though some represent units of public government or are leaders of local political parties.
A Cleveland native, Kieta’s resume also includes editing another McClatchy paper, The Modesto Bee, as well as newspapers in Columbus, Georgia, and Utica, New York.
Replaced by Regional Editor
McClatchy will now use one manager to oversee its Central Valley newspapers under the title of Central Valley Executive Editor. McClatchy hired Don Blount to oversee the Fresno Bee, Modesto Bee, and Merced Sun-Star.
Blount, a 20-year journalism veteran, most recently served as executive editor of The Stockton Record. He also has prior stops at The Modesto Bee, The Sacramento Bee, The Denver Post, and The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania).
“We are creating a new leadership structure for our Central Valley newsrooms with the aim of improving collaboration and delivering more high-impact journalism that serves all of our communities,” a company announcement said.
It is not clear whether Blount will work in Fresno.
Bee Alumni Wish Kieta Well
Kieta’s announcement brought praise from Bee alumni.
“Joe transformed journalism at The Bee at a critical time and lots of my former colleagues were served by his leadership. Congrats on what’s next and also what you’ve accomplished!” Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado, a former Bee writer and now news director at Valley Public Radio tweeted.
Other current and former Bee reporters shared similar sentiments.
Some Bee alumni who did not want to be identified had less kind words for Kieta, who laid off veteran staffers and replaced them with younger, less costly journalists.