Many traditional beats are defined geographically, either as a neighborhood (territorial) or a city or county (jurisdictional). Some areas that your beat covers may be obvious; others may not. Here are some places to include in jurisdictional beats.

City hall and local government

Tour various city facilities, the streets that are under repair and those that need repair. Drive around after a snowstorm and see which parts of town get plowed first. If an older part of town is always the first (or last), you’re never going to find that story in city hall. Some other places to visit:

  • City parks
  • City water plant
  • Sewage treatment plant
  • Libraries
  • Public arenas

Police and public safety

Ride around with some police officers and visit neighborhoods solo. Also include these sites:

  • Police station
  • Courthouse
  • Jail
  • Police/fire academies
  • Public safety agencies
  • Fire department
  • Highway patrol
  • Neighborhood watch groups

Courts

Criminal and civil lawsuits affect the entire community. Include:

  • Courthouses (state and federal)
  • Police stations
  • Businesses and public agencies involved in litigation
  • State and local bar associations

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

Take the full course

Have you missed a Coffee Break Course? Here's our complete lineup. Or follow along on Twitter at #coffeebreakcourse.