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Beat coverage and the Web: Why it makes sense


Students explore beat coverage on the Web and develop a beat list for their own campus.


  • Students will be able to define beat coverage and explain its purpose.
  • Students will be able to explain why online coverage is particularly useful in covering a beat.
  • Students will be able to name and categorize the many potential beats on their own campus.
  • Students will be able to evaluate the online medium as a delivery mode for beat coverage.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


95 minutes / two 50-minute periods


  • List of clubs, sports, and activities at your school (If these are not listed online or in a student planner, you may be able to get them from an administrator or your student activities director.)
  • Large paper
  • Color markers

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Begin by having students list out everything that they are involved in on a blank sheet of paper or in their journals (see slideshow). Their list might include: sports, clubs, outside groups like youth group or Boy Scouts. Then have them list out their interests, which might cover some of the same things but might also include more general topics like: video games, fashion, social media, food.

2. What is a beat? And why cover it online? — 45 minutes

Using the slideshow, explain the concept of a beat system to students. You want them to understand that beats are one way media staffs ensure that they are covering all aspects of their community. In fact, their own school is probably covered by an education beat reporter or two from your local media outlets.

Once you have explained the concept, ask students to take a look at their list of activities and interests. Which might be grouped together under a beat topic? Are there any that generate enough news to stand alone as a beat?

Next, show students the sample beat blog presented in the slideshow. If you have computers available, this works well as an inquiry-driven activity. Ask students the following guiding questions:

  • What is the beat covered on this particular blog or section of a news website? Is it general or specific?
  • What types of stories does the beat blog produce?
  • Can you think of another story that you might see on the blog?
  • What are the advantages of covering this topic online?

Now students should work in small groups to answer the same questions for another beat blog from the list above (see “Materials / resources” above). Afterward, students should share out what they discovered. The teacher should facilitate the discussion, focusing on the similarities between beat blogs, regardless of content.

3. Beat coverage on your campus — 45 minutes

Still in their small groups, the students will now look at the list of activities on their own campus (in student planner, online, or in handout provided by the teacher). They should have a large piece of paper and color markers. In one color marker, have them map out their beat in a mind map, with the topic at the center.

Ask them the following question and instruct them to write each of the related activities or organizations on a branch of their mind map:

  • If you were creating a topical beat blog, which might work well together? For example, the music department, the pep band, the jazz band, choir, and the music honors society might be grouped together under a “music” beat.

Ask a few volunteers to share out examples. Next, have each group select one of their topical beats to use for the next question. They should add these ideas in a different marker color.

Ask them the following question:

  • Outside of the news and events of the organizations included in your beat topic, what other relevant stories might you cover? For example, the music beat might also cover student-created bands, local concerts, open mic night, and pop culture events related to music.

Finally, ask students to identify the advantages of covering the beat online in addition to print. They should record their answers on the back of their mind map sheet.

Ask them the following questions:

  • Does covering the beat online differ than covering it in print?
    • (Possible answer) Yes. Typically, the coverage is more frequent. Updates may be published before the full story is known. The online version may include multiple photos, video, or other multimedia content. The variety of angles is higher because of the increased frequency.
  • What advantages does the online medium offer? Disadvantages?
    • (Possible advantages) Readers get a fuller picture and timelier updates. They get a greater variety of content and get to experience different modes of storytelling. Corrections can be made when necessary. Because the coverage focuses on a topic of interest, they are more likely to interact and engage with the stories.
    • (Possible disadvantages) Increase in frequency might lead to less depth of content. Reader might miss some news if they are not checking regularly. Deadlines can feel less “set,” so some might let content slip or become stale.

Ask for volunteers to share out their ideas. Collect mind maps to evaluate.


The activity portion of this lesson works best if students have access to computers and the Internet. Without that, you could conduct the lesson from a teacher computer, but instead of breaking them up into small groups, you would present the sample beat blogs to the whole class one-by-one.

If short on time, the beat blog analysis could be done by students as homework.