Print Beat?! How do I survive?

By Nicole Gennarelli

I’m sure most JMC majors have heard of the infamous print beat reporting course. When I first started my public relations classes, I had no idea I even had to take it. As time went on, I overheard juniors and seniors exchanging horror stories of their experiences. I was terrified to take this class, but I had to in order to graduate.

Now I can successfully say, I took the course and passed. I’ll be honest, at first the workload is quite overwhelming but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll be fine. Follow these tips and I can guarantee you will succeed.

#1) Contact sources ASAP- This is crucial because the more the sources you have, the more story ideas you will receive. Depending on your beat, make appointments at different colleges and schools to get your name out there and introduce yourself. As the semester progresses, your current sources will most likely give your name out to others who can become new sources. It’s all about networking and meeting as many people as possible once you get your beat. It may seem like having too many sources can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to use them in a story all the time. Quick tip: When you finally have sources coming to you suggesting different story ideas, then you have successfully begun to manage print beat reporting.

#2) Make an on-going list of possible story topics- No matter what your beat is there will come a time when it’s difficult to think of a story topic. By keeping a list of possible story topics throughout the semester, it can give you an idea when you’re dry. The ideas don’t have to be the best ideas you’ve ever had, just something interesting or fun to tide you over until a more important topic comes along. Also, take the master story list you get from the previous beat reporter and compile it with your own. This doubles your list, and you might even like some of the ideas he/she suggested.

#3) Talk with your professor on a regular basis- If you’re feeling overwhelmed or behind in the class, talk to your professor. He/she understands that this is a difficult class and wants you to pass as well. Keep his/her phone number and e-mail address handy, because you will be using it a lot.

#4) Keep in contact with your editor- It’s important to maintain contact with your campus editor. He/she is a great source for possible story ideas as well. Editors receive press releases, and if that press release pertains to your beat you could potentially have a new story topic quite often. Also, maintaining contact with your editor helps to get your stories published in the newspaper. Never be afraid to be proactive about getting your stories in the paper.

And last but not least…

#5) Buy a tape recorder- This last tip is just one of my personal favorites. My first couple interviews I tried to write down everything that was said. That proved to be, well, unsuccessful. I couldn’t read half of what I scribbled down or even remember the full quote. The tape recorder allowed me to go back in an interview multiple times and listen to different quotes. I could pick what portions of the interview I wanted to listen to, and what parts were unimportant. It also helped me to accurately write down the quotes. Moral of the story, that tape recorder was one of the best investments I have ever made. I recommend every print beat student get one. It will make the class ten times easier.

Nicole Gennarelli is a junior public relations student and marketing assistant in the Dean’s Office of the College of Communication and Information.

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