A journalist finding their beat is similar to a musician finding their sound. 

Although many musicians can be multi-talented and good at various genres, there is always one genre that they are best at or enjoy more. And, when they focus all of their energy on that particular genre, they produce spectacular songs. 

Beat reporting is similar to this because it allows journalists to write specialised content for a specific niche. And, when journalists continue to cover stories for a particular beat, their knowledge surrounding its topics grows and their writing for this genre becomes more advanced.

So, if you're a journalist who's trying to find their place, media update's Lara Smit won't let you miss a beat with these four tips:

1. Find out what your best angles are

Sometimes finding out which side is your good side requires you to go through some old photos and see which angles work best for you. 

In the same way, you should look back at some of your old articles to see which angles you took when writing your stories and whether they paid off or not.

Find out which articles performed best and consider why they performed so well. Make Google Analytics your best friend and check out those numbers. Not sure how to use them? Consider asking questions like:
  • Is there anything unique about these articles? 
  • Is there a difference in subjects, themes, voices or styles from the articles that led it to perform well?
Additionally, it may help you to reflect on the feedback that you received from editors regarding your pieces and to decide which articles received the most positive feedback. 

By curating your articles in this way, you will be able to find trends in your writing and see whether your strengths lie in a particular genre. You might even discover that the beat you thought you weren't good at was actually your strong suit after all. This will allow you to shift your focus towards new opportunities, letting you take a path to unknown lands. Talk about following the beat!

2. Take your relationship to the next level

In any relationship, you may think that you know someone, right until you take the next step and move in with them. It is at this stage when all of the flaws that you were once unaware of begin to surface — and this can really make or break a relationship. 

Similarly, your career is like a lifelong relationship; although you may think that the beat you have found is the one, pursuing a career in it may change that. That's why it's important to really immerse yourself in your chosen beat before saying "I do". 

Make yourself at home by reading pieces written by other journalists for this niche. This is so that you can get to know the different sides of your beat. You can also try looking at these articles from different angles and write them up. This will allow you to decide whether you and this beat are really meant to be. And, if the answer is yes, you will have a portfolio full of fresh content that you can show to publications. 

So, what's another way that you can take your relationship to the next level? Glad you asked … By meeting your partner's friends and family, of course! Similarly, you can really get to know your genre by connecting with its community. Whether it's joining an online forum or attending events for this industry, you will be able to network with those who know your beat best!

Seasoned beat journalists will be able to tell you more about the beat you are interested in — warts and all — and possibly even give you some advice on how to pursue it. So, be sure to join the relevant groups on social media (because there really is a group for everything nowadays). Alternatively, get in touch with the right people. This way, you can stay in the loop about upcoming events and join in on conversations with industry-relevant professionals. 

3. Ask yourself, "Does this beat make me want to dance?"

There's a lot of hard work that goes into writing a story and you often have to bend backward, pull some moves and, all in all, do some serious dancing to get there!

You will have to spend hours upon hours researching your topic, contacting sources, visiting locations, recording data and, finally, writing the actual piece. So, dear journalist, it is crucial that you pursue a niche that you are actually passionate about. Otherwise, you might end up resenting the beat that you have chosen, and perhaps even your entire career. 
In the wise words of Maya Angelou, "You can only become truly accomplished at something you love." 
So, to be a successful journalist, the beat that you choose for yourself must be one that you love! This will ensure every piece that you write isn't just a job but a passion project! And, no matter how well your articles perform or how much they make you earn, you will always feel accomplished when you write them. 
Like Ernest Hemmingway once said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

4. Find out where your passions lie 

Firstly, it may help you to reflect on what drew you to journalism in the first place. And, somewhere in that answer, you will find out why you fell in love with the field, as well as what you can do to ensure that you continue to love it.

Secondly, you can self-reflect — decide which of your own personal interests you feel passionate enough about to write a piece on. This may steer you in the direction of a specific niche that you enjoy and will continue to enjoy in the duration of your career.

Lastly, you have to ask yourself, "Is what I write about worth all of the effort?" and "Does it make me want to dance?" If you answered yes to both these questions, then you know what to do! Keep on following that beat!

What are other routes that journalists can take to find their own beat? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Still trying to figure out what type of journalist you are? Then be sure to read our article to discover Five types of journalists you need to know about.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy