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On the Beat: Covering Cops and Crime

About This Course

If journalism is about telling stories, then the crime beat should be the best in the business because it offers great narratives. Almost every news event on the beat features heroes and villains, scoundrels and victims.

As Edna Buchanan, the legendary Miami Herald crime reporter, put it, the crime beat "has it all: greed, sex, violence, comedy and tragedy."

In this course, you’ll learn how to navigate the beat and tell stories with context and authority.

What Will I Learn:

    Upon completing this course, you will be able to:
  • Develop sources for the crime beat
  • Deal with uncooperative sources
  • Define terms used frequently on the crime beat
  • Differentiate between some of the most commonly confused crimes
  • Understand the arrest process
  • Understand the police chain of command
  • Determine whether you have access to public or private property
  • Gather records relevant to the crime beat
  • Use online resources to cover the crime beat
  • Prepare yourself for challenging situations that appear on the crime beat
  • Write stories for the crime beat that are fair and accurate

Who Should Take This Course:

Reporters, bloggers and others who cover stories from the police beat; editors and producers who direct coverage; and anyone who needs to get up to speed quickly on the topic.

Course Staff

Ted Gest

Ted Gest

Ted Gest covered the White House, Justice Department, Supreme Court and legal/justice news during a 23-year career at U.S. News & World Report. Gest's book on criminal justice policy, "Crime and Politics," was published in the summer of 2001 by Oxford University Press.

A native of St. Louis, Gest began his career there at the Post-Dispatch. He has been cited by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and he won an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award.

In 1997, he co-founded Criminal Justice Journalists, which he has headed ever since. In March 2003, he was named coordinator of the Council of Presidents of National Journalism Organizations. He is based in Washington, D.C.

David J. Krajicek

David J. Krajicek

David Krajicek, co-founder and first vice president of Criminal Justice Journalists, writes "The Justice Story" for the New York Daily News and contributes to other publications. He is the author of a nonfiction book, "Scooped! Media Miss Real Story on Crime While Chasing Sex, Sleaze and Celebrities" (Columbia University Press).

Krajicek, a native Nebraskan, was a crime reporter at newspapers in Omaha and Iowa and was police bureau chief of the New York Daily News. A former Columbia University journalism professor, he now works as a writer based in the Catskill Mountains.

Criminal Justice Journalists

Criminal Justice Journalists

Criminal Justice Journalists is a non-profit, member-supported organization whose goal to improve the quality and accuracy of news reporting on crime, law enforcement and the judicial system.

In January 2001, CJJ affiliated with the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. The center was founded by Jerry Lee, president of WBEB-FM in Philadelphia, and is headed by criminologist Lawrence W. Sherman.

  1. Course Number

    Self-directed Course
  2. Classes Start

  3. Estimated Effort

    3 to 4 hours