Joe Sciacca – Editor in Chief, Boston Herald
Throughout his journalism career, Joe Sciacca has accomplished many things. Staying with one publication for almost three decades, in particular, is a rare feat in today’s media landscape. With his April promotion to the editor in chief of print and online editions of the Boston Herald, Sciacca takes on his new responsibilities with enthusiasm.
“Of all the years I’ve been here I see this [opportunity] as being the most challenging in an exciting way,” he said. “So I’m just looking forward to doing some pretty bold and interesting things here.”
His first priority is to expand the online coverage and add new digital components.
“We’re trying to make our website much more interactive, to really build the interactive community, to allow them to provide more user-generated content for us,” he said.
Sciacca recognizes the importance of linking the online and print side, but wants to find ways for the website to stand out, like adding more video.
“I think that the website should be treated as a separate product that provides a much more visual experience,” he said. “We should recognize that our online audience is there for a specific product and it should be a unique experience.”
When it comes to the print side, he’s not afraid it will become extinct, despite the changes in the industry.
“I certainly don’t look at it as doom and gloom for the newspaper industry. I look at it as a challenge and kind of an exciting challenge,” he said. “I think that we’re in a very exciting period where media companies are looking at a future that’s going to be multi-platform.”
For the past five years, the print side of the Boston Herald has highlighted enterprise coverage and Sciacca wants to continue that successful model.
“It’s really about content, about unique content that people need and are willing to pay for. I think a lot of people [still] believe that the content that is most credible comes from newspaper newsrooms,” he explained. “And among all the noise out there it’s what stands out. It is what it’s going to be about going forward, that model and [those] standards, whether it’s in a newspaper, online or broadcast.”
Through the years, Sciacca stayed with the daily due to the respect it has garnered, its tradition and its ability to withstand daily competition with the Boston Globe. Prior to his promotion, he was the deputy managing editor overseeing general news and politics. He joined the staff as a reporter 27 years ago.
“One of the things about the Boston Herald is that it’s a very high-impact newspaper. We’re really at our best when we are crusading for something, on an issue, or uncovering something,” he said. “I think a lot of our readers look to us as a sort of watchdog on government, to keep the politicians honest.”
He added, “I really think we are known as a straight-shooting, populist newspaper, which is a brand that works well for us and it’s something I’m attracted to.”
Sciacca’s interest in history, politics and a desire to make an impact are what motivated him to become a writer. Being able to make a difference with his work and have a front row seat for history is important.
“I can recite dozens of stories where we really got things done, and that’s the kind of thing that appeals to me,” he said.
Some of his memorable experiences include being on site to cover the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and traveling with Ethel and Michael Kennedy on a humanitarian mission to Africa. But he also cherishes his time covering city hall.
“Of all the things I’ve done as a journalist that was probably the most fun I had. Boston is a very interesting city when it comes to its politics—politics and sports are what it’s about,” he said. “So covering city hall…it was just exciting to go in there, to see the intrigue, to know what was going on behind the scenes.”
Sciacca welcomes press releases and encourages PR professionals to send him pitches. “I don’t run away from pitching, I actually like it because it gives us ideas of stories we want to pursue.”
Exclusive stories are more likely going to be looked at first and have a shot at the cover page.
“What we look for here is exclusivity, so it has a much better chance of getting some attention if it’s something we have alone or an angle we have alone,” he said.
For example, getting an interview with someone, a preview of a book, a study or report before anybody else, or a day’s jump on a big announcement are valuable pitches.
He is also interested in pitches with an online component. For example, someone is part of a live chat, any kind of video or digital component and things that can go beyond the print product.
Sciacca advises publicists to keep in mind the local audience when sending pitches. “National issues are important to us but obviously we like to know how they relate to our local audience, [so] boil it down in terms of what it means for our readers,” he explained.
The Boston Herald has a very strong features section, he said, and pitches on any major celebrity or entertainment things that might be coming through their area are always welcome. In addition, interesting local sports stories are also encouraged.
Sciacca is happy to receive pitches by e-mail, mail or phone but prefers publicists avoid repeated phone calls and e-mails. He looks at and listens to everything, “So one e-mail and a phone call are sufficient, we do get it and it does register with us,” he said.
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