Crime beat resource

Baltimore County Fire Department

Baltimore County Fire Department

Today I was brushing up on my crime knowledge and reteaching myself everything a reporter needs to know about crimes, cops and courts prior to taking on a new beat. If you have a drive for breaking news, being on the scene, investigating a case, and tracking down answers, this online service seems to be very useful.

It’s called Covering Crime and Justice and it is an online crime guide published on justicejournalism.org. The guide is for journalists from any region or market to learn the basics and brush up on the techniques and terminology of a crime beat. The guide was written by Dave Krajicek, a special correspondent to the New York Daily News and Court TV’s Crime Library. He is also a published author and a former Columbia University journalism professor, according to his online bio.

Getting back to the actual meat of this resource, I found the information very useful. The guide starts out with a basic overview of what this beat entails, why it is important to the news organization, and what it is a reporter must actually do.

The noteworthy portions of the guide are the differences and details of actual crime cases. When covering crime and courts, it is extremely important to know what your talking about and know how to ask the right questions. If you don’t know the difference between a robbery and a burglary, then you’re watering down your interviews when you’re asking questions to a victim or PIO (public information officer).

justicejournalism.org

justicejournalism.org

In addition, not everything you cover will be breaking news or spot news.  The spot news stories are the stories that are handed to you. Their angles and sources are fairly cut and dry, everything you need is generally in one area, and it’s extremely timely. The guide has several sections about in-depth stories and stories that require research and digging.

The backbone of the crime beat consists of enterprising stories that go deep into the crime domain of an area or jurisdiction. Numbers are a key element to this beat, because so many times, you are faced with issues of money, statistics, trends, population, demographics and repetition. These all include figures that need to be gathered and crunched to pull out those true thought-provoking and revealing stories that fuel the crime beat.

Other than number crunching, there is one more method to turn to for enterprising stories. Talking. And this doesn’t just apply to the crime beat. Every reporter should know that talking can make a world of difference. So many sources throughout this particular beat have valuable bits of information in their minds, either through simple perspective or by having exclusive knowledge. Getting inside these minds through simple conversation can draw out some of your best story ideas.

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