Pros and cons in covering the beats
Covering the news beats is one of the hardest for neophyte journalists, especially if one is assigned to closely monitor the latest entries at the police blotters.
And the first person to approach is the desk officer, who is assigned to log in all crimes taking place in a particular area. Of course, the desk officer will be stunned if you are not wearing any identification to show that you're from a legitimate media organization assigned to cover the police. It will also debunk suspicions that you're just snooping around for nothing. As a standard operating procedure, mediamen are required to always wear the press IDs issued to them by their respective media entities, whenever they're on official coverage.
Normally, for first timers in journalism work, the first assignment is always the police or military beats. But this can be on case-to-case basis, depending on the experience of the reporter. However, a good reporter must be flexible and easily adaptable to any news environment where he is assigned to cover.
Surprisingly, some of the new beat reporters have to endure the hussles while on their beat assignments. Good interpersonal skills in this kind of job plays a great deal to easily develop sources for information. Another important thing is for the reporter to develop the trust and confidence of his sources, especially those who hold sensitive positions in government or corporations. A simple mistake may put the jobs or even lives of the reporter's sources in danger. Not a good precedent and the possibility that other would-be sources will start to shy away from committing the same mistakes in the future. In short, they will avoid you if you're not extra careful in dealing with these people.
Again, getting news at the beats requires skills. Those who are not used to scavenging tiny bits of information have no place in this kind of coverage. That's why other professional journalists just stay away from it and instead venture into any teaching job at universities or colleges or keep themselves busy by doing some public relations activities. But the journalism instructors or professors who didn't have ample experience in beat coverage have no way of imparting to their students the proper way to cover the beats.
At least, the experience he shares with the students will give guidance on what to do in actual media coverages. It's not enough that journalism mentors have to rely on books. They must tell students what they should do once they are covering the beats. What is equally important is the actual procedures that can be applied once the new reporters are given sensitive assignments.
Normally, what the editors do is to prepare and introductory letter written on the news organization's letterhead. It contains the name of the bearer (reporter) and addressed to the person assigned to handle media people covering the office. In government offices, it is the public affairs and information office. In the private sector, it is the corporate communications department. It could be possible that the press relations officer may in turn issue a press pass to allow a certain reporter to circle around the premises looking for news, do some researches or conduct interviews with concerned officials.
However, there are sensitive government offices that have procedures to follow. In some cases, the press relation officer is likely to dictate on a certain reporter as to what and when to publish the press statements he distributed to the mediamen. Sometimes, it is absurb to hear this kind of assertion. In most instances, this is not followed because not all mediamen are on the take for whatever it is.
In the Philippines, the most sensitive government offices to be covered are the tax collecting agencies. But the Bureau of Customs seems to be one of the most liked government agencies to be covered by mediamen.
Tags: Media Practice
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