A good beat is like a Lil Wayne song...no matter how dirty the lyrics may be, you can't help but keep listening.
Beat reporting: the craft of reporting on an issue or particular sector, organization or institution over time (Wikipedia).
In the reporting world, there's the court beat, the cop/crime beat, the hospital, education, and entertainment beats, etc.
In her article, "Beat reporting brought you Dorn story" Karen Peterson of The News Tribune describes the difference between beat reporters and general assignment reporters.
Beat reporters, "develop their expertise and sources over time. Thus, their stories often come from the ground level, not from assignment editors. Their best stories aren’t initiated by a news release or a breaking news event. They are cultivated."
General assignment reporters, "typically cover whatever story is breaking that day as determined by editors."
At WCJB TV20 (market 160), we're general assignment reporters with beats.
I have the education beat.
Yesterday I produced a story on the class-size amendment in Florida. It was a complex piece; the experience of putting it together was nothing like listening to Weezy F. Baby- I couldn't wait to finish the thing and move on with my life.
Today however, my story brought me to Loften High School in East Gainesville, where I got to hang out with Ms. Shankman's science class.
I'm 21 years old, no fossil, but I must say, there's something about young people that lifts my spirits. Even under their 9th grade, too-cool-for-school exteriors, I saw warm, beautiful hearts; curious minds not yet fully hardened by the outside world.
I have to give a special thank you to Jalen Sheppard, the young man who held up my busted camera light as I recorded my standup, (which as usual, took several takes).
These kids are awesome, and meeting them today made me realize there's no such thing as a "good beat," only "good reporters" that know how to let the beat build.
Click here to watch "9th graders on oil spill"