Defining My Poli Beat

My most crucial lesson over the last two weeks has been that defining and developing coverage of a beat will not be a linear process. I have slowly begun to gain familiarity with the essential players in local and statewide politics, as well as the field experts who study them and the journalists who feverishly keep up with them. As a result, my knowledge of topics in politics pertinent to this legislative session has naturally expanded, sparking story ideas. As I seek out knowledge on those topics, I discover more sources, and begin to lean on the most credible of these. Thus, developing story ideas informs the task of identifying people to help me tell them, and I can feel the momentum building behind my coverage.

At the moment, I find myself with two essential, and frankly, somewhat daunting challenges. I lack any formal academic background in politics; my interest in the subject grew quite simply out of reading newspapers, then gained fervor last semester when I interned in a legislative office in Washington, DC. Now I find myself scrambling to learn the technical processes involved in lawmaking, and how to approach translating those for a broader audience.

Second, I am having some trouble narrowing down my interests to a manageable size. I am accustomed to watching Charlie Rose and reading Mike Lillis, so my interests usually gravitate towards the nationwide topics they cover. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that my reporting will have the most impact if I focus on a specific area within a specific tier– the General Assembly, Athens politics or the politicking and posturing that occurs here on campus. I know ethics reform will be a focus, but I have some hard thinking to do and decisions to make in order to really define my beat before the reporting starts.

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One comment

  1. What’s probably going to help is focusing on a specific issue currently under debate, something substantive and something with real-world implications. I bet nobody will do a good job explaining how the federal tug-of-war is going to cause serious problems for states trying to reconcile their budgets, but that may be a little too ethereal. Gun control is something that will play out probably in dramatic ways at local, state, and federal levels, obviously. There are plenty of other possibilities. But a deep dive on a specific issue will probably yield your best work.

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