With the passing of our colleague and friend Steve Buttry, we wanted to highlight some of the teaching he brought to Poynter. Today's Coffee Break Course is courtesy of Introduction to Reporting: Beat Basics, an online course that Steve developed for News University.

Like a job description, a beat description outlines the tasks and territory of your beat and defines the expectations of the job. Whether you're working in a newsroom or working as a community journalist or blogger, you should have a clear understanding of your coverage area.

Use this checklist to help you:

  • Which topics and issues fall in your beat?
  • Which public and private institutions and organizations fall in your beat?
  • Which regular meetings or other events will you always cover?
  • Which will you sometimes cover?
  • Which, if any, will you usually ignore?
  • How will you watch for the good stories that come from the meetings you cover?
  • Where are the gathering places you need to frequent?
  • Who are the officials you need to visit regularly?
  • Who are the unofficial experts on the beat?
  • What websites should you check regularly?
  • What social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) should you follow?
  • What public records will you need to scour?

Taken from Introduction to Reporting: Beat Basics, a self-directed course by Steve Buttry at Poynter NewsU.

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