Being a beat reporter comes with the added bones that, after a while, you’re covering the same subjects. Talking to the same people. You’ve been around for their conversations, understand the nuances of different situations and people, are able to read a room.
But when you’re just starting out, beat reporting can be terrifying. Especially when you know the people you’re covering are wary of the press and the topics they’re discussing are very deeply ingrained in historic structures.
I’ve recently become the beat reporter for a group known as the Collective (I still haven’t figured out if they capitalize the “t” in “the.” I don’t think they do…). It’s a group of students who have decided to try an enact change on the Ithaca College campus by organizing discussions and demonstrations against issues of structural and systemic inequality and racism. Born out of the lack of indictment for the police officer in the Eric Garner case (and also fueled by the same ending for the Michael Brown case, the Tamir Rice case, and the countless other cases of black men and women being killed without repercussion), their goal is to get students to become more aware of the issues around them, and to understand how it’s all connected back to historical colonialism.
So pretty big strides for a predominantly white, predominantly upper-middle class campus. And a pretty tall order to boil down to 600 words for an article. I don’t think I’ve ever put more thought and consideration into word choice for “simple” event coverage before in my life.
Luckily it paid off. I’ve heard nothing but good things from them about my coverage, so I think they’re beginning to trust me and my reporting skills. But I still very much feel like it’s a balancing wire situation: One wrong step, and it’s gone. And rightly so, considering the scope and impact of the discussions. I wouldn’t blame them.
Two students from the group said they’d keep me informed on what they’ll be doing in the future, and another actually put me as a reference reporter for a Board of Trustees story dealing with our Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs. I don’t have details on that yet, but it was a real self-esteem boost to know that they actually told someone, “Oh, you need someone you can trust to cover this well? Kira Maddox.”
We’ll see how this goes. Wish me luck, everyone! Here’s the articles I’ve done so far:
Student activists begin film and discussion series
Students host discussion: ‘Why Indigenous Studies Matter’
Collective hosts discussion on international movements
Collective discusses media’s coverage of minorities