The Arizona Daily Star made news in local-media circles last week when the paper shifted several of its top reporters into different beats. (You can read more about those moves in Media Watch.)
While on the surface, some of the Star's moves seem disconcerting—for example, the shuffling seems to have left the newspaper without a go-to political reporter—I don't know the whole story, so it wouldn't be right for me to spout off. However, I can speak in general about newspaper beats ... so here goes.
Beats are important to journalism. When a good reporter is given the time to immerse himself/herself in a topic, readers benefit. A reporter who knows a beat and the key players within that beat is more likely to get good tips and come up with compelling stories—and when reporters are asked to switch beats, those reporters are essentially forced to start over in terms of developing sources and fully understanding what they're being asked to cover.
The Star may have very good reasons for switching around these reporters; I don't know. I do know that we have very good reasons for keeping our reporters here at the Tucson Weekly on their respective beats.
In fact, the four most-frequent contributors to our Currents section—staffers Jim Nintzel and Mari Herreras, and freelancers Tim Vanderpool and Brian J. Pedersen—will all soon get together for a discussion, as part of an effort to make sure we're doing the best job we possibly can to cover the goings-on in Southern Arizona.
Have any thoughts or suggestions for us? My email address is below; please use it.