No conflict

Despite help from city, our reporting will remain the same

As I write this column, we’re packing up boxes and preparing to move to the News & Review’s new digs on Del Paso Boulevard. We’ll miss the Midtown locale that’s been our home for the past 15 years; it has been exciting watching it grow into one of Sacramento’s most vibrant neighborhoods, even as we’re growing as a newspaper. That said, we are very excited about moving to our bigger, greener building in the Uptown Arts District.

For the News & Review, it’s a new beginning. We hope that the added presence of some 60 employees on the boulevard will help promote the ongoing revitalization of this northern Sacramento community. We’ve converted a leaky, drafty, funky old supermarket into a green, more energy-efficient newspaper office. We’ll own the building outright, instead of having to pay rent, which will allow us to devote more of our resources to journalism.

None of this would have been possible without a significant amount of financial help from the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. For more than a decade, the SHRA has been redeveloping the Del Paso area, offering businesses financial incentives to move there. In the News & Review’s case, we received approximately $2 million in grants, loan guarantees and other incentives from the city.

The payoff for the city comes in the form of increased sales and property-tax revenue and the added incentive for more businesses to follow the News & Review to Del Paso Boulevard.

Any business in the city is eligible to take advantage of these incentives, but the News & Review isn’t just any business. We are a newspaper that regularly reports on the city and on the SHRA. With that in mind, the reader is justified in asking if our new relationship with the city represents a potential conflict of interest.

In short, no. Just as I believe that The Sacramento Bee can write fairly about development, even though they have received hundreds of millions of dollars in housing ads over the past few decades, I believe that we can write fairly about the city and the SHRA, even after receiving assistance from them.

In fact, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. If you don’t believe me, feel free to call Kevin Johnson’s press secretary and ask how he feels about our coverage.

During my 36 years as a newspaper publisher, there have been many instances where regular advertisers have called me to complain about a story and to cancel their advertising. Our business relationship with the city is no different. Yes, it puts us in the position of writing critically about people who’ve helped us financially.

That’s life in the newspaper business.