Skip to main content

Introduction to Reporting: Beat Basics

About This Course

Are you new to the reporting process? Starting on a new beat assignment? This course will help you identify the key issues and sources on your beat, learn how to determine what’s included in your beat and develop the resources to focus your coverage.

Becoming an effective reporter means understanding where to find good stories. Even if you write about multiple topics, or beats, you can benefit by sharping your coverage skills.

In addition, you’ll get some tips from veteran reporters; see what’s included in 10 typical beats; get a list of online resources; and understand the value of social media as a reporting tool.

This course will help you confidently approach reporting and writing the first stories off your new beat.

What will I Learn?

  • How to identify key issues and sources on your beat
  • How to get background information that will give your stories context
  • How to develop resources to focus your coverage
  • The value and inner workings of social media, liveblogging and crowdsourcing as reporting tools

Who Should Take This Course?

New journalists starting to cover a community or beat for the first time, veteran journalists hoping to freshen their coverage of long-established territory and anyone who wants to do a thorough job covering a specific area or topic.

Course Instructor

Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry was director of student media at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Before coming to LSU, he was digital transformation editor for Digital First Media, which he joined in 2011, when it was the Journal Register Co. He has held reporting and leadership jobs for, The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Omaha World-Herald; Des Moines Register; Minot Daily News; Kansas City Star and Times; and Shenandoah (Iowa) Evening Sentinel.


The Knight Foundation

The Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change.

This $30 course is free thanks to the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What web browser should I use?

The Open edX platform works best with current versions of Chrome, Firefox or Safari, or with Internet Explorer version 9 and above.

See our list of supported browsers for the most up-to-date information.