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ProJo's Smith reassigned from media beat

Some ProJo staffers are riled by management's abrupt reassignment of longtime scribe Andy Smith, who in recent years has handled the media beat, reportedly to a slot writing about jobs for an advertising supplement.

Smith didn't immediately return a phone message left earlier today. If he responds, I'll update this post. ,in a voice mail left on my phone, declined to comment.

It's understandable that the reassignment of a veteran staffer to a fluffy advertorial position would cause upset. Any self-respecting scribe targeted for such a move could be expected to seek a different outcome. Yet it also fits with how newspapers reserve the right to make unilateral moves, even if they are unpopular.

"There are always concerns about these types of things," says Providence Newspaper Guild administrator Tim Schick, who confirmed Smith's reassignment away from the media post, "but in general under our contract, the company has a fair amount of latitude in assigning people." In the mid-'90s, he recalls, there was "a massive reassignment of people who worked downtown to the state staff, and many were unhappy about that, but contractually that was the company's right."

Schick was not aware how long Smith, who was previously the ProJo's pop music writer, has been at the paper, but he said it precedes his arrival at the Guild 17 years ago. Asked about what precipitated the move, Schick says, "I don't have any insights at this point into what management's thinking was."

Anyone handling "the media beat" at the ProJo faces considerable constraints since the paper -- which barely printed a word about the contract stalemate that persisted on Fountain Street from 1999 to 2003 -- doesn't cover itself (and the Phoenix, of course, is almost always unmentionable). For his part, Smith has generally reported on the occasional breaking broadcast story, like WHJJ's axing of Arlene Violet last year, so it might make sense for management to steer him to a more productive assignment.

Schick believes that the jobs beat was previously held by Arthur Kimball-Stanley, a reporter-intern who had been hired as a permanent reporter in early 2006, and who has since left the ProJo for a different job. Barring a change, Smith's move is expected to take effect in a few weeks.

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