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New ‘beats’ at The Union

Richard Somerville, Editor
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

So much news, so little time. That’s the lament here sometimes as we contemplate our task: a small newspaper trying to cover a county as large and as diverse as ours.

We have eight news reporters and one sports reporter, with three managers coordinating them. That may seem like a lot, but not when you have scores of potential stories every day and must set priorities as to which are likely to be most important to our readers.

That is why the news staff at The Union has stepped back, has rethought how we have organized our newsroom in the past, and has been reshaping jobs and procedures not only to provide more comprehensive coverage, but to help us prioritize and plan better.



Some of the changes we’ve made already have been written about here – a new design editor, a readership editor and a sports editor who is going to do more writing.

This week we embarked on our greatest challenge yet: reorganizing the beat structures of our news reporters. A “beat,” as many of you know from the movies, is newspeak for a reporter’s area of responsibility.




The staff started out by discussing what topics are most relevant to our readers, then asking which of these were not being adequately covered. Then we organized those subjects under eight “umbrella” beat titles – one for each reporter. Finally, through a detailed process, the beats were assigned.

Reporters are now in the process of switching from their old beats to the new. Each beat is important. We believe each will be the source of an endless stream of good stories about our county and its people – the joys and the sorrows.

As we get comfortable with our new way of looking at the world, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to our reporters, if you haven’t met them yet, and to tell you about their assignments.

Following each beat description is contact information for each reporter.

Growth, Doug Mattson – This area, we feel, is the most crucial for us in the coming years. Nevada County is growing steadily – 20 percent in the last decade, and projected to increase by at least that amount in the next.

The beat includes not only population growth, but demographic shifts, housing, planning and zoning, infrastructure and water needs, and environmental impact. It sounds like a big job, and it is. Doug, who has been covering police, fire departments and courts the last few years, will be assisted by a team of reporters from other beats related to growth, including business, wellness, public safety, and others.

Phone, 477-4234, e-mail dougm@theunion.com.

Public Safety, John Dickey – John has been covering county government and business topics recently. With this new beat, he tackles an expanded area of responsibility that includes not only area police and fire departments, but civil and criminal court, traffic safety issues, state law agencies, and the legal community.

Phone 477-4231, e-mail johnd @theunion.com

Learning, Kevin Wiser – Education is of high importance to our readers, and the learning beat is about not only schools and higher education, but also about lifelong learning – continuing education, business education, personal growth. It’s also about the financial issues associated with teaching and education. Kevin will help us plan a new schools page, coming soon.

Phone 477-4219, e-mail kevinw@theunion.com

Out & About, Carol Feineman – Carol’s beat is the only one that didn’t change, primarily because she is already the heartbeat of our arts and entertainment coverage, primarily through our weekly Prospector section which is published every Thursday. But we came up with the title Out & About, for lack of a better idea, because the beat is about all the things Nevada Countians do for fun – from dining out and reading to street festivals and weekend getaways. Carol is heading up the brainstorming of a hoped-for expansion of the Prospector soon.

Phone 477-4232, e-mail carolf@theunion.com.

Business, Grace Karpa – Grace has years of experience in covering Nevada County, most recently as The Union’s education reporter. That experience will be invaluable as we rededicate ourselves to covering not only small and large businesses, but business trends, economic impacts, personal finance issues and stories having to do with jobs and labor. A new weekly business page is in the works that will help us focus on this key topic.

Phone 477-4236, e-mail gracek@theunion.com.

Wellness, Tim Omarzu – Health and fitness is important to everyone in the county, but especially to our large population of retirees. Tim, who has covered environmental and outdoors issues, will write about not only traditional and alternative medicine, but health agencies and services, medical economics, and fitness-related recreational topics. He will be regular contributor to The Union’s weekly health page.

Phone, 477-4237, e-mail timo@theunion.com.

Lifestyles, David Mirhadi – This beat requires a writer with a lot of enthusiasm and imagination, which David has in spades. It is all about who we are: about family, church, homes, cooking and entertaining, gardening, shopping – in other words, how we live our lives. Expect to see David covering almost anything and everything.

Phone 477-4229, e-mail davidm@theunion.com.

Government/Web, Kerana Todorov – Kerana has been covering city government in Grass Valley and Nevada City, which gives her a strong background for this beat. It has two main parts. First, since government coverage is so important to our readers, Kerana will coordinate a goverment team that will include all the other beats.

That is, all reporters will be covering government actions that relate to their areas of responsibility. Second, she will play the key role in making our Web site your place to look for breaking local news stories, day or night.

Phone 477-4247, e-mail keranat@theunion.com.

These are the people who will make it happen. The Union may not be a big newspaper, but more than ever it’s the only one that cares as much as you do about living in Nevada County.

I couldn’t end the column without mentioning the addition to the top of Page One: the stylized pine tree and river between THE and UNION.

We started using it Wednesday and thought we would get more comments, because some folks still are unhappy about the new design that did away with a masthead photo of a sunset behind a ridge of pines that was used for a few years.

We understood the complaints, but felt the old masthead was not compatible with the new look. However, we had a feeling that something – some bit of color and style – was missing. The contemporary drawing representing our forests and rivers has been used as a logo for The Union for some time, so it made sense to add it to the top of our front page. We hope you like it.

Richard Somerville is editor of The Union. His column appears every Saturday.


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