FROM THE NEWSROOM: How are reporters assigned to a beat?

Monday, November 4, 2013 | 7:23 p.m. CST; updated 2:46 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Welcome to From the Newsroom, the section dedicated to answering your questions about the Missourian. Our goal is to be transparent about our practices and processes and to invite our readers behind the scenes of what we do. Suggest topics you’d like to see explained by contacting Joy Mayer at or 573-882-8182.

Newspapers typically organize their newsrooms into coverage areas or beats. That allows reporters and editors to cover stories or topics over time — to become experts on those topics and to foster relationships with key sources.

At the Missourian, we are organized into these beats:

  • Community: This beat sends reporters to different parts of Columbia to find newsworthy people to write about. The reporters have discovered a wide range of subjects, from teachers to artists, pastors, entrepreneurs and other interesting characters. (This video takes you behind the scenes of the community beat.) Jeanne Abbott oversees this beat.
  • SportsThis beat covers athletic events, trends and personalities in college, high school and other sports. Sports reporters focus on storytelling and writing along with game reporting. (This video takes you behind the scenes in the football press box. Greg Bowers oversees this beat.
  • EducationThis beat covers both K-12 and higher education, focusing primarily on Columbia Public Schools, local private schools and MU, Stephens and Columbia colleges. Reporters cover the activities and meetings of the Columbia School Board and the UM System Board of Curators, along with trends affecting students, faculty and schools. They also monitor state government legislation or initiatives that affect education at the local level. Elizabeth Brixey oversees this beat.
  • Public Life: This beat primarily covers city and county government but also handles some reporting on state government, including the Missouri General Assembly. Reporters on this beat cover meetings and activities of the Columbia City Council, the Boone County Commission and other city and county boards, commissions and departments. The Public Life beat also is responsible for covering elections at all levels. John Schneller oversees this beat.
  • State GovernmentCoverage includes the General Assembly, as well as the activities of local legislators, the work of state government agencies and how that affects education, health care, criminal justice and other areas in Columbia. Reporters on this beat work in Jefferson City under the guidance of the managing editor of the Jefferson City News-Tribune, Gary Castor.
  • Public SafetyThis beat covers crime, activities of the police, sheriff’s and fire departments and the state and municipal court systems. Reporters cover daily crime stories but also write stories that analyze the trends in and causes of crime in Columbia and Boone County. They also cover trials and other court proceedings. (This video takes you behind the scenes of covering a capital murder trial.) Katherine Reed oversees this beat.
  • Health: This beat explores public health issues such as nutrition and obesity, health research, the health care industry and local hospitals. Katherine Reed oversees this beat.
  • Enterprise: This beat produces stories that are off the radar of other beats. Many of the stories that come from this beat are science-related or deal with environment, energy, agricultural and economic issues, but anything is fair game. John Schneller oversees this beat. 
  • VoxVox is Columbia's weekly city magazine that is published in the Thursday Missourian and is distributed around town. In addition to the print product, Vox has a complementary website at and a blog called VoxTalk, which are updated daily. Vox covers culture and entertainment mixed with service journalism as well as an analysis and reflection on local happenings and news. Heather Lamb oversees this beat.

Incoming reporters at the Missourian indicate their beat preference and submit an application, essay and three journalistic writing samples. They are then assigned to a beat and to that beat's faculty editor.

Supervising editor is Joy Mayer

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