Analysis - by on Wednesday, March 4, 2009 20:10 - 17 Comments

What we’re talking about when we say “beatblog.” Our definition.

What’s a Beat Blog?

A beat blog in the expansive sense is any blog that sticks to a well-defined beat or coverage area, whether it is the work of a single person or a team, whether it is authored by a pro or an amateur journalist. A beat blog can be part of a large site, or it could stand on its own. Normally, the beat is explicit and obvious from the home page of the blog, but it is possible for a beat blog to have an “implicit” or unusual beat that isn’t immediately apparent to a casual user.

Content-wise, a beat blog presents a regular flow of reporting and commentary in a focused area the beat covers; it provides links and online resources in that area, and it tracks the subject over time. Beats can be topical (like dot.earth, which is about natural resources and the environment) or narrowly geographic (West Seattle blog) or both (Atlantic Yards Report) or activity-related (Family Life, which is about “raising a family.”)

When beat blogs are part of a pro reporters work, the best ones are not incidental to the reporter’s work but an integral part of it; sometimes the blog is the main platform for the beat.

What We Look For:

The mission of beatblogging.org is not simply to celebrate the form--another beat blog, fantastico–but to find people who do it well and look carefully at what they’re doing. We’re a best practices site. The basic purpose is to spread the lessons of good–that is, effective–beatblogging.

Our ultimate interest is to push forward the practice of using a beat blog in a more “networked” fashion, where the site becomes a two-way knowledge system that feeds the beat. Some have called this the “journalism of the inbox.” It’s editorial production, social media style. The ultimate promise of such a system–and we’re not there yet–is to bring lots more people, with their beat-specific knowledge, connections, interests and talents, into the production of good reporting, quality features, great posts: better stories!

Extending the circle of reportage to include more users in ways that are practical and effective for production on the beat– that’s the kind of beatblogging we are most keenly on the lookout for. A cutting edge beat blog, and the sites of highest interest to beatblogging.org, are those regularly using the two-way, social media part of the web to cover a beat in a more user-assisted and therefore participatory way.

What You Can Do to Help:

  • Tell us about beatblogs we may not know about but should. Use the comment thread right here; we check it.
  • Recommend names and sites for our “who we follow” list of top beatbloggers.
  • Tell us about people to interview, trends to pick up on, practices to track by emailing the editor, Patrick Thornton.
  • Follow us on Twitter. We’re MsBeat.

Subscribe to BeatBlogging.Org via RSS.



About BeatBlogging.org

BeatBlogging.org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. BeatBlogging.org offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.

About the Author of this post
Jay Rosen is a professor of journalism at NYU and author of PressThink.