Training/Marcom Academy

Effective News Beat Coverage

[ad id=”187″]News is recent information about events and development. News is also current information printed in newspapers, broadcast on media channels, like TV and radio, tweeted on twitter or posted on Facebook etc.
A beat is an area that a reporter is assigned to cover. Beat reporters can be assigned to cover both local and international areas. Beat is also a reporter’s regular routine for covering news sources. A beat is a particular topic or subject area that a reporter covers.
Beat reporters are expected to be closer to places such as courts, airports, stock exchange, police stations, government house etc. in order to gather news.
How to Cover News Beats Effectively
Learn everything you can: A beat reporter needs to know everything about his or her beat. That means that he has to talk to many people in the field and also do a lot of reading. This is especially if he is covering a complex beat like science or medicine. This is to enable him have a strong layman’s knowledge of the subject so that when interviewing a professional, like a doctor or an engineer, he can ask intelligent and relevant questions. Also, his understanding of the subject will make it easier for him to translate and write his story using terms that everyone can understand.
Get to know the players
A reporter assigned to cover a beat needs to know the big players in the field. If he is to cover crime, he must endeavour to know a lot of key police officers, detectives and uniformed personnel. If a reporter is assigned to cover courts, this means making contacts with both top and senior lawyers, judges as well as court officials.
imagesBuild Trust and Establish Contacts
As a reporter, you need to develop a level of trust with some people in different fields to the point where they become your reliable contact persons or sources; the reason being that they can provide you with tips and valuable pieces of information for news.
Preparing to Cover Beats
To cover a beat requires some basic preparations. For instance, if a reporter is assigned to cover the Murtala International Airport, Ikeja in Lagos, he needs to understand the aviation sector in terms of airline operations.
The aviation correspondent must get to know names of airline operators operating at the airport, the big players and those in the secondary category.
The aviation correspondent needs to understand aviation technology and the intricacies of airline services.
The reporter on the aviation beat needs to be familiar with basic air transport terminologies registers and peculiarities of aircraft.
An aviation correspondent should monitor arrivals and departures at the airport, flights delay, flights cancellation, crashes, operational problems and industrial actions. These are newsworthy, but care must be exercised in reporting them. The task calls for competence, dedication and human capacity development. The aviation reporter’s duty goes beyond providing only information on his beat. He should, through proper analysis and interpretations, explain the complex nature of the field to the public. The task calls for high level of competence and dexterity.
Qualities of a good reporter
A reporter in a media organization – print or electronic – is one who gathers information and presents it in a written or spoken format in news stories, feature articles or documentaries. Some reporters are permanent staff in a particular media outfit while others are freelancers- (freelance reporters, writing stories for media organisations for an agreed fee). General reporters cover all sorts of news, but some of them are attached to specific areas like politics, sports, education tourism etc.
[ad id=”147″]Curiosity
This is one of the defining traits of a good reporter. A reporter must be a very curious person to be able to apply his initiatives to find out more about what he is writing about. Curiosity will help a reporter to know how things work and why people are the way they are.
Communication Skills
A reporter must be able to communicate with people, interpret information given to him or her in such a way that the audience can understand in order to avoid creating noise. Both oral and written communication skills are needed. Oral communication uses the spoken word. It is a kind of face-to-face communication. Oral communication takes place at meetings, conferences and lecture sessions. Such communication is quick and permits instant feedback and response to feedback. A reporter needs oral communication skills to communicate and written communication skills to write.
Integrity is the quality of having high moral principles, being reliable and trustworthy, and sticking to moral and ethical principles. On the part of a reporter, it means that he or she must adhere to ethical standards and values attached to the journalism profession.
Ability to be neutral and unbiased
This centres on a reporter being impartial, free from sentiments for or against one side or the other, as well as being fair in making judgment without preconceived ideas.
Good writing skills
Every reporter is expected to have good writing skills. A reporter needs to know how to write clearly and make use of few words. In writing, a reporter must try to follow these guidelines:
• Be clear, concise and coherent
• Must not be too worded
• Write with flair
• Avoid poor punctuations
[ad id=”169″]Patience, persistence and perseverance
Journalism from any angle is seen as a tedious profession. This calls for patience, persistence and perseverance. These three ‘Ps’ are the backbone that every reporter should have. Investigative reporting takes time, and as such, a reporter needs to be patient and persevering and very inquisitive. At the same time, a reporter needs to learn how to ask why and how to get answers associated with them.
A reporter needs to be brave enough to report the truth, no matter what the consequences may be and who is involved. Sometimes, it may not be easy, but this is the nature of journalism.
Interest in something else
It helps the reporter to understand different fields and to be able to understand the structure of the society more.
A reporter must have a versatile knowledge to be able to cover news from different areas and fields. This is why having a diverse knowledge is important.
A reporter in a media organization is one who gathers information and presents it in a written or spoken format in news stories, feature articles or documentaries. The effectiveness of covering news beat by a reporter lies in learning everything, getting to know people in positions of authority, as well as building trust and establishing contacts. Similarly, one can qualify as a good reporter if one develops strong communication skills and good writing skills, has curiosity, integrity, patience; exhibits good sense of judgment, and is persistent and versatile in his pursuit.
In 800 words, examine five factors affecting free and fair news reporting in Nigerian Journalism. First prize – N10,000 worth of recharge cards. The two other correct answers will attract N3,000 worth of recharge cards each. Written answers should be sent to:

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