On the Beat: Covering the Courts

Course Overview

On the Beat: Covering the Courts
Self-Directed Course
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.

The courts and the U.S. legal system affect virtually every area of American life, ranging from taxes, abortion, elections, crime and free speech to health care, the environment and free enterprise. Therefore, courts intersect with almost every beat in journalism.

In this course you will learn about court beat coverage: understanding and explaining legal jargon, developing sources, finding records and telling a story with depth and accuracy while maintaining sensitivity to the people involved.

What Will I Learn:

Upon completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify potential sources.
  • Develop sources.
  • Understand the court system.
  • Anticipate events before they occur.
  • Understand key terms commonly used.
Who should take this course:

This course is for reporters and editors who want to want to give their readers simple but clear, interesting and poignant coverage of trials and the legal system.

Training Partners:

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.

Reynolds National Center for the Courts and Media

The Reynolds National Center for the Courts and Media -- University of Nevada, Reno, dedicates itself to strengthening an independent judiciary and a free press, the safeguards without which there would be no American democracy.

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