Beat journalism is thematically dividing journalists based on specific subjects and topics that they cover. Beat journalism was originally created to make the journalism industry more efficient and effective. A beat is simply a specific subject or topic that journalists specialize in and focus their articles on.
Examples of Beats
In general subject areas of journalism, beats are used to separate the journalists into more specific topics. For example, Sports journalists may be divided up by type of sport such as basketball, football, and so on. Beauty journalists may be divided up by makeup, hair products, skincare, and fashion. There can also be beats about a specific location. For example, world news journalists may be divided by countries or even cities.
Beat reporting offers many advantages both to the journalist and the outlet. Beat journalists are able to establish long-term relationships with many sources. Establishing this loyalty makes it easy for journalists to access relevant information needed on their topics. Beat reporting also breeds expertise in subject areas. You can trust that beat reporters have experience writing about specific beat.
As for the media outlets, beat reporting breeds efficiency and organization. Outlets can ensure that they have specialized journalists covering each of their topics. They can also cut down on resources needed to find sources when journalists have already established those relationships for themselves.
With the many pros of beat journalism, there also come a few cons. Beat journalism may inhibit diversity of opinion within a subject area. With experienced beat journalists come their opinions that have been formed over many years. Also, considering that beat reporters have established relationships with some sources, they may neglect to check a wider array of sources that they may not be familiar with.
The journalists themselves may also seek a change within their career after covering a specific topic for a long period of time. It is not uncommon to see beat journalists covering other topics to keep their opinions fresh.
Beat journalism is an effective and advantageous way to divide journalists into specific subjects. Although it comes with some challenges, beat journalism offers many benefits to the journalists, outlets, and the readers.