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Sacramento Mayor Hopes For Local Ownership Of 'Sacramento Bee' Newspaper

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is hoping to rewrite the headline of his city's paper. Instead of "The Sacramento Bee, The 163-year-old Paper Files For Bankruptcy And Is Sold To A Hedge Fund," he wants the headline landing on people's doorsteps to read - "The Sacramento Bee Stays With Local Owners."

To explain, we are joined now by Mayor Steinberg. Hi there.

DARRELL STEINBERG: Good to be with you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So this is not a new news story. McClatchy, which owned a bunch of papers, including the Bee - I think people have followed along as it filed for bankruptcy. Give me in a few sentences what your plan is for writing a different ending to this story for the Bee.

STEINBERG: Well, first of all, The Sacramento Bee is the leading daily publication in the capital city of California, and it is a civic asset. We intend, as a community, to put up a fight to make sure that the Bee emerges from bankruptcy in a way that not only maintains its status, but actually enhances it because the Bee has suffered like many daily newspapers over the last decade or more.

I just believe that independent journalism is crucial for obvious reasons. Our community matters, and we don't want this newspaper carved up in a way that will leave the people that I represent to not have the benefit of that independent daily journalism.

KELLY: I read you're planning to convene a forum later this month - is that right? - with investors and philanthropists and community leaders to figure out what this might look like.

STEINBERG: Exactly because we know that there are a number of models throughout the country, and we intend to highlight all of them in addition to actively working, between now and the 27, to identify some people who might be willing to buy the Bee.

KELLY: Do you have your eye on specific potential investors?

STEINBERG: I do. I can't identify them right now, but we are working very hard on identifying some investors. But, you know, our city is this great, emerging city in America. I say that, I know, with a little bias because I am the mayor, but it's true. We're emerging from just being a capital city and a government town to be the center of innovation and technology and food. And it's becoming a great millennial citizen.

And over the last half decade or so, we have fought to keep civic assets. We fought to keep the Sacramento Kings, our NBA franchise, in the capital city. And we ended up not only keeping them, but building a great downtown arena. We just fought to win a Major League Soccer franchise. And so a newspaper may not seem on par with all those other civic assets, but undoubtedly the daily newspaper is at least if not more important than those civic assets. And if those are worth fighting to keep and to win, so is The Sacramento Bee.

KELLY: What section of the Bee do you read first every morning?

STEINBERG: (Laughter) That's a good question. I read the editorials first. I read the state and local news. I make sure they spelled my name correctly.

(LAUGHTER)

STEINBERG: And then, you know, I like to read the sports section, too. You know, we have a NBA team that's making a run for the playoffs, so...

KELLY: That is Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg talking about The Sacramento Bee. Mayor Steinberg, thank you.

STEINBERG: Thank you so much, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.