Beat Description Instructions


Use this blog to complete the “Create Your Beat Description” at the end of the first lesson in the Poynter course. First, be sure to read through the first lesson “Focus Your Coverage” AND take a look at a couple of beats in the Lesson Five “Starter Kit.” If you’d like more help developing beat resources, I encourage you to skim other topics in the course, too, to gather additional ideas.

Once you are ready, create a post and use the “Beat Description” category for your post. Introduce your post with a quick overview of your beat:

  • What is your beat?
  • What other beat (or beats) did you consider?
  • Why did you decide on this beat instead?

In addition to your brief, general overview, we need to know when Nick Schwien and Russell Heitmann at TMN can look for each of your stories to publish them promptly on TMN. In an effort to encourage a steady stream of stories over each two week period, you can write your story next week or the week after. Then you will do a story every other week on this beat or a related beat. TMN will need your story the day after any relevant meetings occur. So, we need to know your personal deadlines for those stories.

  • When will you submit your first story?
  • Will your future deadlines be that day of the week every two weeks. or will you need to set future deadlines in a different manner?
  • List the exact days and times that TMN can grab your story from this blog.

Then, use your post to answer the questions in “Create Your Beat Description:”

  • What is the nature of your beat?
  • What are the boundaries of your beat?
  • What does your editor expect from you?*
    • How will you handle overlap with other beats?
    • Routine Responsibilities?
    • Which regular meetings will you always cover?
    • How many interviews & quotes?
    • Any live blogs or social media?
  • What public and private institutions fall in your beat?
  • What topics and issues fall in your beat?
  • Which regular meetings or other events will you always cover?
  • Where are the gathering places you need to frequent?
  • Who are the officials you need to visit regularly?

Make sure you organize the content of your post clearly, provide a relevant visual, categorize your post as “Beat Description,” provide relevant hashtags, and, of course, address all of the questions above.

*You can make assumptions about what you think we expect from you, or you can email Nick (, Russell (, or me ( to clarify anything you are unsure of.

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