And The Beat Switch Goes….Back?


By R. L. Bynum

The Duke career of Marvin Bagley III lasted longer than the time three sports writers spent on their respective ACC beats.

A News & Observer/Herald-Sun beat shuffle that was unpopular with two of the affected writers, and numerous readers, became effective Dec. 1. But, after a change in newsroom leadership, a reversal has put those two back on their longtime beats.

Joe Giglio and his yellow pad (seen above paying homage to Michael Jordan’s return to the Chicago Bulls after playing baseball) will be back on the N.C. State beat for the consolidated sports staff and Steve Wiseman returns to Duke coverage in changes made Thursday that became public this week. Jonathan Alexander, who covered the Blue Devils during the basketball season, will shift to the North Carolina beat.

The changes mean The N&O/Herald-Sun will have three UNC beat writers in less than five months.

Many wondered why two sports writers with years on their beats and numerous cultivating sources would be reassigned. But John Drescher, then the executive editor, opted to do that instead of only filling the UNC beat writer spot when Andrew Carter become an investigative sports reporter.

Drescher instead shifted Giglio to cover UNC and Wiseman to the N.C. State beat, and switched Alexander from the recruiting beat to the cover the Blue Devils.

Since then, Drescher became opinion and solutions editor and Robyn Tomlin left the Dallas Morning News to take over in mid-February as executive editor of The N&O and The Herald-Sun.

“We made the decision over the last few weeks,” Tomlin said via email. “They will begin transitioning immediately, but there will undoubtedly be some crossover time.”

Steve Ruinsky, the sports editor of the consolidated staff, said that the writers will take away positives from the beat shuffle.

“We accomplished a major goal, which was to broaden our ACC sourcing across beats,” Ruinsky said via email. “In looking at next steps, we took into account the social media following Steve and Joe have on Duke and N.C. State and thought it was worth building on that as we move forward.”

When Drescher talked about the beat changes late last year, he suggested that shuffling beats every one or two years might be a pattern. That may no longer be the case.

“We have no firm plans to change beats on any given schedule, but we are always evaluating our coverage and may make future changes if/when we feel there’s a genuine value in doing so,” Tomlin said.

Neither Wiseman nor Giglio seemed to be happy when they were moved away from their familiar beats and both, no doubt, welcome the reversal of last year’s decision. Giglio had covered the Pack men’s basketball since 2009 (football since 2011) and Wiseman had covered Duke since taking the beat at The Herald-Sun in August 2010.

“Both Joe and Steve did a great job covering different teams this year, and Jonathan did a terrific job jumping in to cover Duke,” said Tomlin, who also highlighted the experience Giglio and Wiseman got on another beat. “That was valuable, but there’s also value in having reporters covering beats where they have established strong sourcing and relationships.”

Tomlin is in the process of adjusting beats across the newsroom.

“As we were thinking about Sports, Steve and I decided to make this change simultaneously,” Tomlin said.

Alexander did a solid job covering Duke, particularly in his first season covering a major national program and the learning curve that comes along with that. He’ll go from one “blue blood” basketball program to another. Next season with UNC will be his first covering a college football beat.

The shifts mean that only Giglio will be covering his alma mater, but he’s shown that he is fair and tough with his Wolfpack coverage. Alexander is an N.C. Central graduate and Wiseman is an Illinois State graduate.