Clay Lambert is the editor of the Half Moon Bay Review, a small weekly newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also serves as the editorial director for the newspaper’s parent company, Wick Communications of Sierra Vista, Ariz. As such he helps mentor and provide best practices for two-dozen newspapers and accompanying websites across the country.
In 2010, Suburban Newspapers of America, now known as Local Media Association, named Lambert its Editor of the Year for small weeklies. In 2013, the Review was Newspaper of the Year in its class in the California Newspaper Publishers Association awards.
Lambert is a single father and graduate of the Colorado State University journalism program.
He has obviously placed a good deal of thought in analyzing the community the Review serves, the role his news organization plays in that community and how to fulfill that role.
NL:What are some of the unique aspects of your community and the way your staff goes about covering the community?
CL: Where to begin! Half Moon Bay and environs are absolutely unique. There are dot.com millionaires living close by old-time farming families, and Stanford graduates who send their kids to school with those of migrant farm families. It’s a fascinating demographic and each constituency has its own agenda.
The entire Bay Area is exploding. More and more talented people are coming to work in the relatively highly paid tech industry and, as terrific as that is, it presents challenges. Traffic is increasing. Home ownership is out of reach — even to many people making six-figure salaries.
That presents interesting challenges for us at the Review as well. We know we need to stay abreast of the latest technological developments in the news business — and we’ve fully embraced social media, as one example — but we also need to reach traditional readers who grew up with our newspaper on the kitchen table.
Part of the answer, I believe, can be found in some really subtle things. I think of our “cops” reporter as more of a “public safety reporter.” “Sports” needs to morph into “activities and leisure.” I think every day about how to be more inclusive in our coverage and methods, and what we call our beats is one aspect of that retooling. I know this nomenclature stuff can sound silly, but it’s symbolically important. We need to expand the meaning of news to include all these kinds of consumers we have today.
NL:What have you accomplished so far as editor at the Half Moon Bay Review, and what else do you want to accomplish? CL: It’s hard to think in terms of accomplishments like that. I’ve been here 10 years and each edition is an accomplishment of sorts. We’ve added specialty publications, including a “best of” edition for our readership area, and a unique periodical called “Eats” that focuses on fine dining. We’ve continued to produce a really fine newspaper and monthly magazine while adding new online responsibilities all the time. I’m very proud of our small team and the role each member plays in building community for our readers.
I think the thing that I’m personally most proud of is the development of some really talented young reporters who have come through our door in the last decade. I certainly can’t take any credit for their success upon leaving here, but it’s tremendously gratifying to hear from them years later when they are reporters at places that include the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.
NL:If you could have one wish granted regarding the news operation of the paper, what would it be?
CL: My wish simply would be that our readers continue to see the value of what we do. There are those among us who think democracy is safe and that a crowd of interested citizens will just report on all things all the time. Some people think local journalists are no longer necessary because of Facebook and Next Door and online tools like that. I’m not so sure about that.
Certainly citizen journalists bring to light big stories and small abuses of power all the time. We don’t expect our local newspaper or news site to be the sole source of our information now, but professional journalists are still critical. We’re there every day. Every day. Of course I would want more manpower, better equipment — a drone or two. But mostly what I want is an understanding of our role and mutual respect shared with our readers.