Beat reporters go digital

How are today’s newsrooms different from those of the past? Watch the film below, which starts to explain “beats” about two minutes in.  These beats are areas ”which [reporters] cover day after day,” says the video’s narrator.

But, what if, today’s newsrooms eliminated beat reporting? What would happen then?

MediaShift‘s Josh Stearns recently wrote an article titled, “Should we blow up reporters’ beats in the digital age?

To explain adapting beat reporting to the digital age, Stearns uses three examples:

  1. Andrew Donohue’s project “rethinking how we construct investigative stories, the time frame we think of for reporting projects, and what role the community can play.” Donohue explained his project in a blog post. He wrote: “Each project will be done along a strict two-year timeframe and funded through non-profit donations. It will also experiment with ways to compellingly present big-picture context. The users come along on a real-time quest narrative with an investigative reporter.”
  2. Quartz‘s obsessions replacing beats. Quartz staff explain the concept of “obsessions” in an online article. The article reads: “we organize ourselves around the seismic shifts that are changing the shape of the global economy. We call these topics our ‘obsessions.’” A few examples of their obsessions are: the mobile web, digital money, energy shocks, and start-ups.
  3. Homicide Watch D.C., which Stearns writes “is a community-driven reporting project covering every murder in the District of Columbia.”
So, what does this have to do with ScribbleLive and liveblogging? Lots!

First, the digital age is heavily focused on community engagement.

Stearns writes: “in a networked age, can the wisdom of the crowd and the relationship of networks replace the traditional beat? And can we construct an investigation that does not just inform, but also engages and empowers people to continue some aspect of the work after the journalist moves on?”

Liveblogging is an ideal platform for community engagement and it has the potential to empower people to continue some of the topical work once the journalist moves to a different story/topic.

Second, there is the focus on “wicked problems.”

Quartz’s obsessions model and Homicide Watch D.C. both tackle coverage of so-called “wicked problems.” Stearns explains wicked problems as”the complex systems that undergird so many of the issues facing our society.”

Liveblogging provides a way to focus on and dissect individual stories that speak to the larger problem. For example, covering one child abduction case to expose the broader issue of crimes against minors.

The journalism world is changing and evolving to keep up with the needs of the world; ScribbleLive is happy to be a part of this digital transformation.

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