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Step on toes or no? Backing up a beat

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SonofGarySmith, Apr 3, 2008.

  1. SonofGarySmith

    SonofGarySmith New Member

    I'm a secondary guy on my beat. College town paper. If you've ever worked at one, you know how it is. Everyone in the house has some role covering Local U.

    Now, I'm not a "backup." I'm not trying to work my way to the beat. I'm more of a GA/enterprise guy. We have separate beat writers for all the major sports (basketball, football, baseball, women's basketball and one other that's big here).

    For those in a similar position, what's the etiquette? Sometimes I feel bad that I'm not as "plugged in" as the beat guys. Like I'm not a good enough reporter or something and not as "well-sourced" as I should be.

    On the other hand, I'm not interested in stepping on their toes. If I was a beat guy, I'd want others to let me handle it. You don't want other staffers mucking things up for you - or even having their own "guys" that are loyal to secondary guy instead of you.

    Anyway ... you get the point.
  2. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    Sounds to me like you have advantages and disadvantages as a GA reporter.

    On the one hand, you'll have your hands in more pies, so to speak. It can give you the opportunity to be at least somewhat familiar with more areas than a beat writer is. Granted, you wouldn't have the advantage of being intimately familiar with a particular team. You could be generally familiar with several.

    The disadvantage, of course, is that you would be unable to have specific sources as a rule. Because you're a generalist, you don't have the advantage of building relationships with anyone you encounter as part of your beat.

    I don't think you're stepping on toes as long as you don't consciously try to get into the goings on of the beat without the beat writer's or the SE's consent.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I would be there when the crap flies on basketball and football -- pass along any tips.

    If you want to do some kind of feature or enterprise story -- look for something on the athletic program in general // academic tutoring -- what is the most popular major (and what do they take in criminal justice and communications anyway) -- where the money goes, etc.

    Beat writers aren't gonna want to touch those.

    If you want features and such, I'd look to see if there are interesting stories from tennis, golf, lacrosse, rowing, rifle, bowling, track, etc. Gotta be some good stories.
  4. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    I'm not sure I understand your dilemma. If you're asking whether you should be developing sources, the answer is yes. If you're asking if you should be worried about the minutiae (sp?) that goes with a beat, the answer is no. And if you're asking if you should be afraid to break news, the answer is no.
  5. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    If you're going to be the GA guy working on assignments and are worried about infringing upon the beat writers, just ask what they think when you come up with a story. If they like it and want to do it, they do it. If they like it and can't do it, you do it. If they don't like it but your SE does, ask SE and then follow SE's advice.

    This seems simple to me.
  6. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Find out what the main guy hates to do and then offer to do that... How can they accuse you of stepping on toes when you're doing what they don't want to do?

    In my situation early in my career, I wound up writing all of the baseball features so the beat writer could just worry about news and game coverage... He would do the tedious day-to-day stuff (which he loved) and I would do the Sunday takeout. You'd be surprised how many beat writers hate writing features.
  7. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    Given that most college town papers aren't real big I'm shocked you have five separate beat guys for the school. How do you cover local HS stuff?
  8. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Ever heard of the SEC?
  9. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    Yes. And in this two-team state, everybody is pulling double duty with football and men's hoops, never mind the minor sports.
  10. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    At most bigger college town papers, they have a football writer who does nothing but football. A men's basketball writer who also helps cover football. A women's basketball writer who probably also covers volleyball. A baseball writer who also covers some other lesser sport in the fall and sometimes there is a guy who has to do all of the little sports.

    The entire staff probably works home football games and 3/4 of the staff work men's hoops games. I know of places that travel everybody but one to road football games, and these are papers with a circulation under 40K.
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