On the Beat: Covering Cops and Crime

Course Overview

On the Beat: Covering Cops and Crime
Self-Directed Course
This $29.95 course is free thanks to the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Time Estimate:
This course takes about an hour to complete.

About Self-Directed Courses

In a self-directed course, you can start and stop whenever you like, progressing entirely at your own pace and going back as many times as you want to review the material.

If journalism is about telling stories, then the crime beat should be the best in the business because it offers great narratives. Almost every news event on the beat features heroes and villains, scoundrels and victims.

As Edna Buchanan, the legendary Miami Herald crime reporter, put it, the crime beat "has it all: greed, sex, violence, comedy and tragedy."

In this course, you’ll learn how to navigate the beat and tell stories with context and authority.

What Will I Learn:

Upon completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Develop sources for the crime beat
  • Deal with uncooperative sources
  • Define terms used frequently on the crime beat
  • Differentiate between some of the most commonly confused crimes
  • Understand the arrest process
  • Understand the police chain of command
  • Determine whether you have access to public or private property
  • Gather records relevant to the crime beat
  • Use online resources to cover the crime beat
  • Prepare yourself for challenging situations that appear on the crime beat
  • Write stories for the crime beat that are fair and accurate
Who should take this course:

Reporters, bloggers and others who cover stories from the police beat; editors and producers who direct coverage; and anyone who needs to get up to speed quickly on the topic.

Course Instructors:

Ted Gest

Ted Gest covered the White House, Justice Department, Supreme Court and legal/justice news during a 23-year career at U.S. News & World Report. Gest's book on criminal justice policy, "Crime and Politics," was published in the summer of 2001 by Oxford University Press.

David J. Krajicek

David Krajicek, co-founder and first vice president of Criminal Justice Journalists, writes "The Justice Story" for the New York Daily News and contributes to other publications. He is the author of a nonfiction book, "Scooped! Media Miss Real Story on Crime While Chasing Sex, Sleaze and Celebrities" (Columbia University Press).

Training Partner:

Criminal Justice Journalists

Criminal Justice Journalists is a non-profit, member-supported organization whose goal to improve the quality and accuracy of news reporting on crime, law enforcement and the judicial system.

Technical Requirements:

For this course you will need to have at least version 7.0 of the Flash plugin installed. For the best experience, we suggest that:

  • PC users use Internet Explorer or Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox
  • Mac users use Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox or Safari
  • You set your monitor resolution to 1024 x 768 or higher
  • You use a high-speed connection