New beats and new focus will make our news coverage more relevant

In the Statesman newsroom, we talk about you – our readers – all day long, seven days a week.

What impact can we make? What matters to you?

What will help you and what do you need to know?

What are you reading and watching? What are you saying on social media?

What is relevant and timely?

Our reporting decisions are shaped not only by the news of the day, but also by what interests you show with the journalism you read or watch, which – thanks to digital metrics – we can more easily monitor and measure. That’s why the Statesman is rolling out new beats for reporters this summer and reshaping the way we’re structured. Our aim is to better tell the stories you care most about.

Accountability journalism has always been one of our newsroom’s top priorities, and that won’t change. In fact, we are adjusting beats to emphasize watchdog reporting.

For years when the print edition was our focus, we did not have the technology to tell us which stories resonated with readers. Some readers called us, emailed us or wrote letters, and some still do.

But today, only 10 years after the iPhone was introduced, we have more readers online or on mobile than we do print subscribers. That gives us data that show exactly how many people are engaged with stories and videos, how much time they’re spending with that content and where they are coming from – many from Facebook and Twitter, or through Google searches.

Our new beats won’t mean you’ll see “clickbait” or fluffy news that drives page views. You can always rely on Statesman reporters for accurate, fair and reliable news reporting. I’m proud that the Statesman has journalists with integrity who care deeply about their roles and the Treasure Valley.

We won’t change our commitment to state political coverage, but we’re going to change the way we cover lawmakers. Our reporting will take the lead holding your lawmakers accountable to their promises; exploring how laws and regulations directly affect your life; offering new ways and alternate perspectives to understand political developments; and keeping you abreast of the latest news, but with the context you need to understand it.

We’re also creating a team of three reporters covering a new beat called Changing Boise. This team will focus on topics related to growth, economy, work issues, education and lifestyle affordability.

This is just the beginning of our beat revision. I’ll share more specifics soon.

We’ve also created a new role of Community Engagement Editor to strengthen the conversation and interaction between the Statesman and the public. Bill Manny, former senior news editor and a member of the City Club board, will fill this role. He will oversee our editorial board and work with Publisher Debra Leithauser to increase our presence and conversations in the community and on social media. Look for Facebook Live videos with interesting influencers in Boise, as well as regular columns by Manny.

One bittersweet change in the newsroom is that longtime Statesman journalist Bill Roberts is retiring after 43 years in this profession, 30 as a Statesman reporter and editor. Bill has been the heart of the newsroom, someone who has covered just about every topic: education, religion, politics, breaking news. He’s served in a variety of editing and reporting roles over several decades, but is probably best known for his education stories. His last day will be July 14, and we’ll miss his signature booming voice and laugh, as well as his work.

In my 11 months here, I’ve talked to hundreds of readers about stories that matter to residents of the Treasure Valley. And I’ve talked to people about stories we have missed. I’ve heard from business leaders who aren’t reading the Statesman regularly or following us on social media. And I’ve heard from executives who say we’re an essential start to their day.

We are aiming to produce even more content that matters, to give you a reason to come back to us every day. Please drop me a note with your thoughts at rprast@idahostatesman.com.