9 questions to focus your time on the beat

March 29, 2017

The best reporters learn how the world works, whether it’s the world of law enforcement, the laboratory, the zoning commission, the city council or the corporate boardroom. One of the best ways to provide excellent coverage is to focus your efforts. Here’s a checklist to help you think critically about how your spend your time:

Enterprise Story Ideas:

  • What are some investigative opportunities?
  • What are some feature possibilities?
  • 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?

Time Management:

  • What will be high priorities?
  • What will be low priorities? (If everything is a high priority, then you haven’t prioritized.)
  • How much time will you spend on daily news?
  • How much time will you spend on enterprise stories?

Looking for more ways to hone your skills? Apply by April 3 for Poynter’s Reporting and Editing Summit, a weeklong seminar May 7-12.

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.