editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Walk your beat online

January 15th, 2008 · 3 Comments

So now that you’re publishing a weekly newsletter highlighting your work AND interacting with readers and potential readers AND you now have a double-sided business card that displays all the great ways people can interact with you AND you’ve become the envy of your colleagues and the pride of your editors, what’s left to do?

As frequent readers of editor on the verge know, my Sunday and Monday posts were devoted to the above ideas that I feel can help reporters keep and advance their careers. Why should today’s post be any different?

There was a time (and I know, in some places it still exists) when beat reporters would walk their beat, from the police station and neighborhood watch captain’s home to the local bakery, the diner, the barber shop and beauty salon, etc. This was how a reporter got his/her stories, let their readers know what to expect, and got to know residents. People would say, there is “our reporter”.

Today many reporters rely on faxes, email and cell phone calls to cover their beats. More is accomplished behind the desk then pounding the pavement and too much time is spent behind the wheel — remember, newspaper’s don’t reimburse miles walked, only those driven.

But I think there is a modern equivalent to walking the beat and it can be found on the Internet.

It’s all there; reporters just need to search out the sites and visit them. Depending on the newspaper and the beat, you can find the beauty salon crowd at Muslim Moms’ Cafe, the Police Station and neighborhood watch people at meetup.com, the diner regulars at Chowhound or Yelp and barber shop guys BlackPlanet. They’re all there waiting for you to stop by, say hi and introduce yourself.

So spend some time and map out your beat on the Internet. And once you’ve located your regulars make a habit to regularly visit and chat with them. In no time you’ll find people typing, “hey, you just missed our reporter.”

Tags: Beat Development · Best Practices · Innovation · Online

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Matt King // Jan 15, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Hey Yoni,

    Great ideas this week. I’ll be firing up my first newsletter at the end of the week, along with a ning network for my beat.

    Let’s still encourage reporters to to put in a lot of shoe leather. I’ve found that nothing substitutes for showing my face all over the place – at meetings, at the PD, in people’s businesses, at the PTA, in the classroom, etc.

    It’s the best way to learn about anything and buys loads of goodwill and cooperation.

  • 2 Mark Dykeman // Jan 20, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    “Walking the beat” is basically what bloggers do with RSS feeds, no?

  • 3 Yoni Greenbaum // Jan 20, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    @Mark – Definitely. I think there’s actually a lot that reporters and newspapers could learn from bloggers. It amazes me at times how approaches that are obvious to bloggers and blogging are revolutionary to newspapers.

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