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Know Your J-Jargon

civil law : Statutes under which an individual or a group can take action against another individual or group. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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Teaching Tips

We are collecting tips from high school newspaper advisers nationwide on how to run student publications and deal with the issues from administrators, students and parents.

Covering a beat

Proven tips for covering a beat
  • Get organized
    • Personal discipline makes a better reporter.
    • Straighten your desk.
    • Buy a planner, and keep it updated with regularly scheduled meetings.
    • Start a tickler file of upcoming important dates.
    • Establish one notebook as the notebook of record.
    • Keep (paper and electronic) files of your beat.
    • Keep a file of source phone numbers, work and home, e-mail, pagers.
    • Bookmark reference sites on the Internet.
    • Call your sources as soon as you get an assignment.
  • Get out of the office
    • Meet the newsmakers on your beat and try to establish a rapport.
    • Make the rounds regularly, preferably in person.
    • Keep your word; never make promises you can’t keep.
    • Be an observer, not a player.
    • Learn everything you can about your beat.
  • Find the proper perspective
    • Train yourself to think like a reader.
    • Always advance meetings.
    • Include as many different viewpoints as possible.
    • Ask for feedback on ‘difficult’ stories.
  • Learn from the past
    • Familiarize yourself with past issues on your beat.
    • Read the clip file and electronic archive.
    • Always include background information for context.
  • Observe the minimum standards
    • Keep your editor aware of your whereabouts.
    • Advance all regular meetings.
    • ALWAYS check about any action taken following executive session.
    • Meet deadlines.
    • Include at least two sources on every story.
    • Spell Check copy before filing.
    • If you break a story, follow it.
    • If you are absent, make sure your regular beat is covered.

— Wanda Garner Cash
The Baytown (Texas) Sun