HARRISONBURG — Jim Sacco has held the sports editor reins since April 2016 and, starting this week, will be taking on a new position — managing editor of the Daily News-Record.
For the last 22 years, Sacco has been fully immersed in the journalism world. He started as a city hall reporter at the Manassas Journal Messenger in 1997 and later moved on to the sports department in 1998.
He served as the sports editor for the Northern Virginia Daily for one year, the News Virginian for eight years, the Bristol Herald Courier for six years before coming to the DN-R, where he has been for the last three years.
His resume continues to grow as Sacco-led sports staffs have been honored nine times through state and national awards, earning first in state for the best sports section eight times and honored for sports special sections by the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Sacco said his managing editors in the past helped him to prepare to take on this new role for the DN-R. During his time at the News Virginian, Sacco said he was “second-in-command,” allowing him to be in charge when the managing editor was away.
“I never wanted to be a managing editor until 10-15 years ago where I had two great managing editors, J. Todd Foster and R. Lee Wolverton, two people that I guess saw, ‘Yes, he is a sports editor but he is a newspaper guy,’ which I am…this is all I know how to do.”
Foster is the editor at The Daily Times, in Maryville, Tennessee and Wolverton is the managing editor of The Roanoke Times.
Craig Bartoldson, publisher of the DN-R, said he looks forward to working with Sacco as he takes on his new role and continues to move the newsroom forward.
“Jim has been a tremendous sports editor for the Daily News-Record, he has developed one of the best sports sections in a local newspaper,” Bartoldson said. “He also has a solid news background, which makes him an exceptional choice to lead our newsroom. He will be a great asset as we continue to grow our local coverage as well as our video and social media presence on the news side.”
With his vast experience covering and running a sports department, the knowledge he has collected over the years is something he can carry over with him.
“Sports has always kind of led the way in terms of multimedia,” Sacco said. “I think the goal for everyone else is to catch up. But I think in general, management is management. It’s knowing what the stories are and it’s knowing what matters to the community.”
DN-R Sports reporter Shane Mettlen has worked with Sacco for a number of years as they were both sports editors within former Media General’s chain of Virginia papers and frequently collaborated for coverage.
“It was an opportunity to see first-hand what kind of editor he was and when an opportunity to work alongside him at the Daily News-Record came about, it was a no-brainer,” Mettlen said. “Nobody is more committed to local journalism or has a better grasp of what makes a good local paper.”
Sacco’s leadership can be seen first-hand through Cody Elliott, a sports writer for the DN-R, who said Sacco has been a “picture-perfect example of what an editor should be like.”
“Since I first came into this profession out of college at The News Virginian, Jim has always been there for encouragement, advice and ways to get better,” Elliott said. “Since I’ve been hired at the DN-R, he has pushed me outside my comfort zone and made me a much better writer. Without the leadership and guidance of Jim, I wouldn’t be half the writer that I am today.”
For James Madison University football beat reporter Greg Madia, Sacco’s leadership will raise the quality of the entire DN-R.
“I can tell you Jim cares deeply about local journalism and it’s been evident in our sports section,” Madia said. “Whether it was a story about Broadway cross country, Turner Ashby baseball or James Madison football, Jim’s standard for the effort necessary to tell it properly never changed. He wants his writers to tell the best stories and they feel the same way.”
Sacco says he will help sports stay on its current trajectory, even after the job switch. One thing does remain certain — he wants the DN-R to continue to be the voice of Rockingham County and Harrisonburg while setting the standard of what community journalism can be.
Sacco, a native of Chicago’s Little Italy, and his wife Elizabeth, a Staunton native and Riverheads High School graduate, reside in Broadway.
“I came back to the Valley to come back to the Valley,” Sacco said. “I am invested. As long as this place will have me as managing editor and as long as I feel I am doing the job that needs to be done here, I am not going anywhere.”