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Establishing and nurturing relationships in beat reporting


In this lesson students will understand and operate a beat reporting system. With a developed protocol, students will evaluate the benefits and validate relationship building’s importance to successful beat reporting. Students will practice scenarios to assist in discussion and conclusions about rapport with sources. Students need a foundation in news literacy, research and interviewing.


  • Students will understand the concept of beat reporting.
  • Students will understand how they can use a beat system to engage with their subjects and build rapport in their campus community.
  • Students will practice establishing beat reporting.
  • Students will develop and revise protocol and procedures for beat reporting.
  • Students will transfer reporting from beat to story pitches for staff coverage development.

Common Core Standards



Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.


Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used..


Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.


150 minutes

This is a two-part lesson. Part one is for defining and establishing a beat reporting system. Part two is for understanding and evaluating the importance of relationship building to beat reporting. If a beat reporting system is currently established, skip part one and start at part two.


Presentation: Intro to beat reporting

Handout: Beat reporting sample questionnaire

Exit Ticket Assessment: Beat reporting top tip exit ticket

Rubric: Exit ticket top 10 beat assessment rubric

Presentation: In step: Rapport building with beat sources

Exit Ticket: Beat rapport building exit ticket

Rubric: Beat rapport building rubric

Handout: Beat reporting discussion questions

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

Discussion and Presentation — 25 minutes

1. Ask the class, “What is your primary source for news gathering on campus?” Allow the class think time and discuss the students’ ideas.  Responses will range from calendars to announcements to word-of-mouth. Lead the students to the idea of people as the primary sources for information.

2. Follow up with, “Do these people— newsmakers, leaders, information sources —know who to share their news with?” Allow the class think time and discuss the students’ responses.

3. Define the idea of beat reporting with the class through the guided “Intro to beat reporting” presentation. Consider printing the presentation to provide students with guided notes.

4. In small groups, have students generate a list of clubs, organizations, teams, academic areas and groups they feel should be covered using beat reporting. Using their reporting skills, have the students identify a faculty adviser and student leader for each group listed as homework. Create a collection method for this information. A Google Form or spreadsheet, binder or rolodex-system are recommended.

Group Work — 25 minutes

5. In small groups, have the students discuss what they’ve learned so far about beat reporting using the “Beat reporting discussion questions” handout. The handout discussion questions encourage students to analyze and infer about the beat reporting process. Following the small group time, have the students select a reporter to share out their main points or take-aways from the discussion with the rest of the class.

6. For assessment exit ticket, students need to create a top five list of tips for establishing a beat using the “Beat reporting top tip exit ticket.” Students should write each tip as a simple phrase and then explain why including in top five.

Day 2

Review — 20 minutes

7. Using the exit tickets from the previous day, start with a review of the tips as guidance for being a good beat reporter and establishing a beat. Coach the students to expand the tips to include the process of beat reporting and returning to the newsroom with information. What happens in the middle and end of information gathering? Share with the students the “Beat reporting sample questionnaire.” Have students evaluate the information on the sample questionnaire—too much, too little information? What revisions would they make? How can a questionnaire be a helpful tool to establishing the beat? How will the students report out when they return to the newsroom with information and story ideas?

Group Work — 25 minutes

8. In small groups, have the students develop a beat workflow. Try to limit the step-by-step workflow to no more than 10 steps. Have each group post their beat workflow on poster-size paper around the classroom. Compare and contrast the workflows and establish one beat workflow for the staff.  The class has established the protocol for initiating a beat reporting.

Day 3

Presentation — 50 minutes

9. Before students are ready to start cultivating their beats, lead them in a discussion and exercise in the psychology of relationship building. Use the “In step: Rapport building with beat sources” presentation to review with the class beat reporting and give an overview to the main goals to establishing rapport with sources: consistent in routine, open, honest and sincere with reporting methods. The presentation includes three scenarios for pair share discussions. Divide the class into pairs or small groups. Instruct the students to use their knowledge of beat reporting, relationship building, and their own opinions to 1. Read the scenarios and discuss the issues/concerns, 2. Address the questions on the slides, 3. Evaluate if additional questions/issues need to be address, 4. Develop a plan of action or new solution, and 5. Share their conclusions with the class.

10. For an exit ticket reflection, share the “Beat rapport building exit ticket” with students for a short answer response.

Differentiation/Extension Activity

11. Using the list of organizations, groups and teams generated from day 1, have students select beats they would like to cover. Give students three days to a week to make contact with their beats and have first face-to-face meetings/interviews with subjects. (Recommendation: It is acceptable to have a student involved in an organization or group be the beat reporter due to the ease of communication, but keep in mind someone who is heavily involved in a group can have bias or perspective that can distort whole group coverage.)

12. Have students share and reflect on their meetings and coverage ideas. Suggestion: see Story Pitch meeting lesson.