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Choosing and covering beats to maximize news

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1 Choosing and covering beats to maximize news
BEAT REPORTING Choosing and covering beats to maximize news

2 WHAT IS A BEAT? Simply, a beat is an area or topic of news that is routinely covered or checked by the same reporter. Beats vary from news organization to news organization, depending on the publication’s mission and audience. Daily newspaper beats include business, education, environment, police, courts, health care and government. School media beats include clubs, academics, administration and activities. In any media, sports beats are divided by sport.

3 WHY USE A BEAT SYSTEM? Make sure you don’t miss anything Provide coverage of the entire school, not just the part you’re involved in Uncover more interesting stories and angles Build relationships throughout the school Know who covers each story

Most high school publications have several beats within these categories. Clubs and Activities Academics, In-School Issues, Administration, Student Services, Curriculum Entertainment Sports Teen Issues

Post-It Note Activity List as many possible beats as you can think of in each category. The group with the most ideas wins. (But we’re all winners if we build a great list of possible beats). Follow directions! Don’t post your ideas before instructed to do so. Teacher: The directions are in Beat Reporting-Lesson 11 lesson plan.

6 Teachers: Add a slide here if you wish listing your process for assigning beats to students.

7 HOW DO YOU COVER A BEAT? Get the background. Read about the club, organization or sport on the Internet. Read what was written from your beat in the school paper and yearbook last year. Meet people. Introduce yourself to the sponsor, adviser or coach. Seek out the student leaders. Talk to them casually first. Go social. Join the group’s Facebook page. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Add them to your circle on Google+. Make lists. Names and phone numbers of officers, captains, coaches, advisers. Upcoming meetings and events. Scheduled practice times. Story ideas.

8 HOW DO YOU COVER A BEAT? Pick up a few copies of the beat check form. Fill one out every time you contact someone on your beat. Stay in touch with the people on your beat! Call them back. Follow up on social media posts. Be there for the big events. Keep a calendar. Don’t let something big pass by because you forgot it was happening. It’s your responsibility to get the stories from your beat into the newspaper, on the web site, on TV or in the yearbook.

9 HOW DO YOU COVER A BEAT? Remember your readers. You are writing for all of the readers, not for your sources. You and your editors make the judgment about whether something is news. Your sources do not. Follow the money. Who controls it? How is it made and spent? Even at school, money is a source of power. Look for something different. You don’t have to cover your beat the way your predecessor did.

10 BUT DON’T DO THIS! Don’t get too cozy with your sources on your beat. You still have to be objective. You should not spin stories favorably just because you like one of your sources. Don’t waste people’s time (your source’s or yours). Get the information you need when you make your beat checks. Focus on your questions and make notes! It’s easier that way. Really.

11 Do your beat checks at least once every other week.
BEAT CHECK FORMS Do your beat checks at least once every other week. Turn in the beat check form on the due date. Do NOT ask for time during class to make your beat check on the day that beat check forms are due. That just shows you didn’t do your job.

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