Question: Where is editorial content for The San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday real estate section produced?
A very logical answer might be Fifth and Mission streets in San Francisco. That's the downtown location of San Francisco's venerable daily newspaper.
But the correct answer is Locust and Church streets in Lodi, the location of the Lodi News-Sentinel.
Over the last year, we've developed a unique partnership with The Chronicle. The connection has brought new zest and opportunity to the newsroom — and more black ink to our bottom line. I wrote a summary of our alliance for the California Publisher, produced by the California Newspaper Publishers Assocation. Thought I would share it with LNS readers, too. The article follows.
As a community daily, we're keenly focused on coverage of Lodi and nearby towns.
On any given day, though, proofs float around our newsroom with content relating to Alameda, Marin and San Mateo counties.
That's because of a unique arrangement between the News-Sentinel and the San Francisco Chronicle. We're now providing editorial support for a selection of Chronicle publications, including their real estate offerings and a new free zoned weekend section.
How did this come about?
Allen Matthews, a deputy managing editor at the Chronicle, is a former reporter and editor at the News-Sentinel. Last summer, when the Chronicle was looking for a new real estate content provider, Allen contacted his old boss, and my current one, Marty Weybret, publisher and owner of the News-Sentinel. Allen asked Marty if the Sentinel was interested in submitting a bid. Marty led a quick round of assessments here, and we agreed — enthusiastically — to bid on the job.
After some negotiations, our bid was accepted.
The workflow is simple. The Chronicle lays out the ads on pages in its CCI system. We remote into CCI to design the pages and place the stories. Chronicle editors then review the pages before they’re sent to the Chronicle’s printer.
We launched in November, producing the main Sunday real estate section, a twice-weekly home feature that runs in the Business section, and the slick monthly, SFis Homes.
As we prepared, one of our page designers, Marc Lutz, received CCI training in San Francisco. He handles design and layout, using Chronicle templates. We tapped Jordan Guinn as a reporter. Jordan works real estate sources all over the Bay Area. He writes stories, gathers photos, and arranges for varied features and columns. I work with our copy desk to edit and proof the publication, with final review by Chronicle editors.
In December, we began talks with the Chronicle about producing a set of new weekly publications, On the Peninsula, In Marin, and In the East Bay.
Again, we struck a deal to provide editorial pagination and coordination.
Most of the content, including sports, listings and reviews, is pulled directly from The Chronicle. We engaged Chronicle freelance writers in the Bay Area to produce weekly cover stories relevant to each region. Maggie Creamer, our city hall reporter, was promoted to serve as editorial coordinator for the publications. Dan Evans, our photo chief, makes a trip to the Bay Area once a week to shoot art for the cover stories. Before the March 2 launch, Chronicle Deputy Managing Editor Frank Mina came to the Sentinel to give CCI training to Maggie and two of our copy editors, Daryl Bunao and Matt Wilson. Allen and Chronicle Home&Garden Editor Deb Wandell worked in the Sentinel’s newsroom to help us have a smooth first week.
For our newsroom, The Chronicle contracts have meant learning different computer systems, taking on new assignments, and pushing hard to make the extra deadlines. Allen, Frank, Deb and other Chronicle editors have worked equally hard to make sure we have the resources and training to make this all work. It’s been a win-win for both newsrooms.
Our focus is still on Lodi and environs. But our Chronicle partnership has energized the newsroom with a marvelous professional challenge — and brought in fresh revenue. It’s a great example of how papers, both large and small, need to think in different ways in order to prosper.