UNIT 2: THE FEATURE ARTICLE: FINDING YOUR BEAT
When people become journalists, they don’t write about everything under the sun, they usually develop a “beat,” meaning they write about a specific topic that they are uniquely qualified to write about. This is their “beat.” Then, when magazines need someone to write about coffee or hip-hop or the Bronx, they will look for writers who have expertise on those subjects.
In this unit, you will find your own specific beat, a subject where you can showcase your unique experience and knowledge. You will write a feature article (an in-depth article of 1400-1600 words) for a magazine or newspaper) that narrows in on some specific aspect of this subject. THIS NEEDS HELP
How does a person find their beat? There isn’t only one answer. Your beat is something you either know a lot about or you have a lot of connections to (meaning you could get good interviews.) For example, if you are a skateboarder, your beat might be the skate community. You could write stories for skate magazines, but you could also write stories explaining skateboarding for an audience of non-skateboarders. Your beat doesn’t have to be a community you are a part of, though. It can also be something you know a lot about. You might read a lot of history books– and your beat might be putting current events in an historical perspective. We will work together as a class to find YOUR beat. This will be fun for you to write, and engaging for your readers to read.
Your beat is a subject that fits you, something that makes you shine. But your feature article also needs a specific subject that will be interesting to your audience. That is to say, every beat, has a million stories in it! There are people whose whole career is writing articles about coffee (What’s the best coffee shop in Brooklyn? Queens? What’s the best way to make coffee at home? And on and on) And there are those, of course, who make a whole career writing about music– each new album and new trend. Once you have found your beat, you’ll need to figure out HOW SHOULD WE PHRASE THIS
It is a strange fact that sometimes the more specific we get, the more interesting stories are! For instance: a student once came to us saying he wanted to write about his recent diagnosis with something called “middle insomnia,” but felt nobody else might be interested, since it was so specific to him. The whole class disagreed: we wanted to know what “middle insomnia” meant! His personal diagnosis was also a great way into an article into sleep health: something of interest to almost every audience.
- Audience Awareness. Who are you trying to reach with this article? Are you using the right diction, publication, sources and arguments to reach this audience?
- Completion and use of research. Did you dig deep in your research and find relevant and credible sources? Does your research reflect a thorough understanding of the problem you are trying to impact? How were you able to integrate this research into your own article and argument?
- Organization and analysis: Is the piece well-organized, with clear, thought-out points that are backed up by information and explanation?
- Is it convincing? The goal was to convince your audience to begin making a particular change to benefit your community. Does your article convince them to do so?
- Sentence-level: Can your reader understand what you are saying without distraction? Is the writing enjoyable to read?
- At least 1400 Words