Friday, February 15, 2008

How do you cover a beat better?

Hell has nothing on the week I just had.

The School Committee postponed a vote on the teacher's contract. The teacher's union cut the board some slack and not pulling the work to rule card on the district as they had last semester. A suspected murderer was arraigned and sentenced on a parole violation. A dispised former fire marshal retired. The pension board saw its hands tied because the fire department contract guarantees the marshal's pension. The former town manager is looking to sue the town. Oh, and there's a blood drive to commemorate the five year anniversary of the worst fire in Rhode Island history.

My town is popping. And that's a good thing. But all that popping just leaves me pooped.

In between this rapid-fire week, I scheduled interviews almost every day this week, which meant my days were long and full. I just filed my last story of the week -- on the murder suspect -- and my back hurts from sitting at my desk.

Beyond that, I'm starting to kind of feel inadequate. (Way to bury the lede, huh?)

See, two of the stories I had to write this week -- the town manager suing the town and the fire marshal retiring -- I was beat on. Scooped, respectfully, by a local TV station (which was slipped the confidential document) and the Associated Press.

So not only did I spend my week essentially switching gears as news broke midday, but I spent most of it feeling crappy about getting beat. It really hit me today as I sat in Panera, eating a chicken caesar salad after attending the murder arraignment, because that's when my boss called me about the town manager threatening a lawsuit.

I put my head down on the wood panelled windowsill as the chorus to this song played over and over in my head. I found a pen and took notes on a recycled paper napkin. This week would not end. My manager said she could see if someone from the Metro desk could cover it, but that would only make me feel worse, like I couldn't handle my own beat.

So I cancelled an interview I'd scheduled for the afternoon, headed into the office, made calls, went back to the court house to see if any papers had been filed for the lawsuit and hounded the town solicitor.

I did the story. It's running tomorrow. But I don't know if I can keep this up. I don't like this feeling. So, I'm turning to you, Ten95 readers.

How do keep from getting beat in a culture where you're one of four reporters in a bureau that, in its heyday, had probably 10? I check the cop logs. I have good sources. But I'm competing against 3 reporters who cover my town for the local paper, TV and the wires. How do I cover my beat better?

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Posted by T Dot at 7:31 PM | link

Read or Post a Comment

First off, dear...I'm troubled that you had THAT Lil' Wayne's song stuck in your head.

Second, I think it's natural to feel miserable when someone scoops you, in your own turf too especially.

But what you just wrote about there has more to do with the industry and less to do with you being any less of the fantastic reporter that you are.

Posted by Blogger Aaron Morrison @ 11:26 PM, February 17, 2008 #

Thanks, hon. I appreciate the kind words.

And a note about those two stories I wrote Friday: they got held. So my hustle was for naught.

Posted by Blogger T Dot @ 8:52 PM, February 18, 2008 #
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