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Melanie Sill, former Sacramento Bee editor, selected as KPCC's executive editor

KPCC's Executive Editor Melanie Sill
Grant Slater/KPCC
KPCC's Executive Editor Melanie Sill

Melanie Sill, the former editor of The Sacramento Bee and The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., will be the new executive editor of KPCC's Southern California Public Radio.

In her new position, Sill will oversee the day-to-day news-gathering operation across KPCC's broadcast, digital and social media platforms. The nonprofit is aggressively working to build out its online news service with ambitions to become the region’s preeminent source for information across multiple media.

"She brings a wealth of news and managerial experience to this new position," said Russ Stanton, vice president of content for KPCC. "Most importantly, she has been a force of change in two newsrooms, leading efforts to restructure staffs to better compete in the digital age."

Sill served as editor and senior vice president of The Sacramento Bee, the flagship paper of The McClatchy Co., for nearly four years through May 2011. She stepped down to take part in a six-month Executive-in-Residence program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

During her time at The Bee, Sill led an effort to redesign the print and digital operations of the newsroom, including creating "Sacramento Connect" a regional network of 180 bloggers and website partners hosted on The Bee’s website.

At a morning meeting, Sill was presented to the staff and peppered with lots of questions. She said she has been reading widely about challenges facing public media and will be working to learn more about the radio operation.

"We're looking to build our own model, but we have a lot of other newsrooms that are working on the same problems, so there are lessons we might borrow from," Sill said. "It won't be a structure I can sit down and write out, and say OK, everybody, here's what we do. I think I bring some good questions and [experience]."

A veteran newswoman, Sill has worked as a journalist since 1981, when she began reporting as a North Carolina state capitol reporter for the United Press International.

She worked at The News & Observer for 24 years, rising through the ranks to eventually become executive editor and senior vice president in 2002. As the paper’s projects editor, Sill led a team that produced an investigative series documenting the consequences of North Carolina’s fast-growing hog industry. The five-part series won the Pulitzer Prizes’ Gold Medal for Public Service in 1996.

A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Sill has worked to understand the changing media landscape. She produced "The Case for Open Journalism Now", a discussion paper that looks at how journalism in the digital era can continue to provide value and serve as a public good by transforming from a one-way production into a more transparent and responsive operation.

Sill's hire is the second addition of a former high-level newspaper journalist to KPCC's fast-growing ranks. Her task to continue growing KPCC's newsroom will be a change from The Bee, where Sill presided over a series of staff reductions and cost-cutting measures due to the industry-wide decline in advertising revenues.

Both Sill and Stanton, who started last month, bring experience working in newsrooms adjusting to the digital age and seeking to innovate.

Sill has cultivated an active online presence. Her personal blog regularly addresses innovation in journalism, as does her Twitter account. A board member of the American Society of News Editors, Sill leads a weekly Twitter chat among editors. Sill said she hopes to continue blogging and tweeting in her new role.

She is also on the board of the California First Amendment Coalition and on the advisory boards of the California Center for Health Reporting and Poynter's national panel.

Sill will begin her new role on April 2.

This story has been updated.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).