Diana Marszalek writes that the disappearance of beat-based reporting "may be taking broadcast journalism down with it." She cites a media strategist's estimate that just 1 in 10 TV stations assign their reporters to formal beats. Time and money are the reasons, although some stations -- such as those in top markets -- have not abandoned them. Although Marszalek story focuses on TV, newspapers also have cut back on the number of beats due to layoffs and to cover breaking news for the Web. In my conversations with colleagues at newspapers around the country, I've heard how their employers have dropped beats once considered essential, full-time jobs, such as courts and municipal government, or combined them with others. In other cases, specialized beats such as higher education have gotten the ax. A recent FCC report notes that one reason it took so long for the corruption in Bell, Calif., to come to light was that no local media regularly covered the city government.