The first three exercises in the textbook ask students to explore, compare and contrast beats from one or more news outlets. The fourth exercise asks students to choose a specific beat reporter and to analyze five stories by that reporter to gain insight into how to cover a beat.
One of the online exercises asks students to consider the potential for a conflict of interest, or the appearance of one, in cultivating professional relationships on the beat. Two others ask students to prepare to cover a beat by studying a news organization’s archives.
1. Beats (Exercises 11-2 and 11-3 in the textbook are similar, but this activity is geared to in-class work.)
Select and project the home page of a major newspaper and show students where on the site they can find the beats. Identify several of the beats common to most newspapers, such as local news, crime and courts, arts and sports. Then, going around the room, ask students to select one of the nation’s 50 states—only one state per person. Have students pull up the website of a newspaper in the state they selected and then ask them to,
a. identify three beats common to the ones you’ve described above
b. identify a couple of beats that are uncommon, perhaps some that are specific to the
city or region
c. try to localize one of the beats above
d. describe their findings to the class
For example, the Alaska Dispatch News has common beats such as News, Culture and Sports, but it also has one called “Fishing” and another called “Arctic.”
In our town, a fishing beat might work locally because the river running through Durango has “Gold Medal” fishing—and it also has a history of pollution from old mines upstream in Silverton, Colorado. An Arctic beat would not make sense, but drawing on the idea of specifying a region to cover, a Southwest beat would.
2. Campus news beats
Mimic Activity 1, but instead of having students look at a professional news site, have them select a student news organization from one of the colleges or universities in the state they chose.
3. Professional relationships
So far in the textbook, students have learned about conflict of interest (or the appearance of one), research, interview preparation, and interviewing. For this activity, provide a link to the website of a local news organization and specify a beat. Create pairs or small groups of students and ask them to,
a. research the beat
b. identify one or two sources on the beat they’d interview early on
c. create an introduction script about themselves and their purpose to have ready when they set up the interview appointment
d. create a short question list for the meet-and-greet interview
WORKING A BEAT
Test questions & PDF
Chapter 11 describes beats and professional relationships with sources on the beat. Three beats are featured: education, crime and business.