Researching your beat

NBCU Academy 101

As a beat reporter, you’re going to be constantly researching to learn about new developments within your beat. The key is to first build a solid foundation of knowledge about your beat so you can become well-versed in the language, issues and events that matter.

NBC News Senior Reporter Brandy Zadrozny takes you through the tools and resources you can use to start researching your beat. They include:  

  • Read up on past stories within your beat. Be on the lookout for who was interviewed, what background facts were mentioned and what data was referenced. Take note of who or what this information was attributed to and add that source to your list of places to check for additional information.   
  • Build a library of reference materials.  Become well-versed in the language, issues and events that matter within your beat.  
  • Google Alerts. Type in a keyword to create the alert, and you can get notifications sent right to your inbox when it finds new results—such as web pages, newspaper articles, blogs or scientific research.  
  • Social media. Make a list of key players and organizations in your beat and follow their accounts. Take advantage of each platform’s features. On Twitter, you can follow topics related to your beat and even create a list of important accounts, allowing you to see their tweets all in one place. Get into a routine of going through your news feeds and notifications throughout the day to stay on top of the latest updates.  
  • Search for upcoming events. News may come out of a weekly board meeting or scheduled press conference. Check for online public calendars or schedules or events posted on social media. Maybe a company in your beat is hosting a Facebook event or a potential source RSVP’d to a LinkedIn event.  
  • Sign up for media advisories. Reach out to the press contact for the person or organization you want to cover and ask to be added to the media advisory distribution list. You can be alerted of upcoming press conferences, forums, rallies or other events open to the press.  
  • Keep all your information in a beat note. Stay organized and stay on top of new developments in your beat with a beat note. This is basically your personal reference document where you can keep track of anything important related to your beat. Feel free to arrange it however helps you the most. This way, if a story breaks, you’ll have all the key information at your fingertips and will be ready to report. 

Smartquote
Prior to becoming a journalist, I was a news librarian. Every time I started a research project, I made sure to look at three things: What has already happened, what is happening right now and what is going to happen.
Brandy Zadrozny