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Exercise 5-1
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Preparing for a Beat Assignment

Once you've been assigned a beat at your publication, you'll want to do a few things to prepare before your first story. Use the following checklist to get yourself started. You may work with a digital or hard copy version of this checklist.
Checklist 5-1 (41.0K)

  • Read as much as you can that's been published previously about your beat, including reporting from competing publications. Can you make an archive of this work for future reference?

  • Interview the reporter who covered your beat previously. What were his or her challenges? Accomplishments? What stories should you expect in the near future. How best can you pick up where he or she left off?

  • Ask your predecessor for his or her sourcebook – the goldmine of contact information for the people you need to get in touch with to do your job right and with speed.

  • Which publications should you be reading? If you're an education reporter and you're not on the e-mail list for the PTSA newsletter, you're going to miss some important bits of information. If you're covering the cops but aren't privy to the police officer association's newsletter, you'll be missing insight that could make a difference in your reporting.

  • Call and introduce yourself to as many of your new primary sources as possible, perhaps scheduling backgrounder interviews to get inside their worlds. Consider writing a few profiles as a way to get to know them better as well.

  • Make a list of the most important stories you'd like to cover, and submit the list to your editor for more direction.

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