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Conversations with journalists can add depth, context to stories

Friday, February 6, 2009 | 12:00 p.m. CST

Dear Reader,

As journalists working on stories and daily deadlines, we’ve noticed something. Often, the most interesting part of a story we’re covering is the part we leave out.

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We may talk about it after work over a drink, or mention it to our friends over coffee, but we often leave it out of the stories we cover. The “it” is hard to define – it’s sometimes a summation point, an overall perspective or analysis on an issue. Example: We might cover the new governor’s budget proposal but leave out the fact that he also proposed banning cell phones from press conferences. We may report on the debate over whether City Council members should get paid, but we’ll forget to give the history of the debate or provide the back story on why the debate has emerged. Or, we might report on the economy in Columbia and leave out the bigger question of whether college towns are doing well in the current economy.

We work to get the facts right, to provide a balanced piece and to get multiple sources and perspectives on what we cover. Sometimes, in the pages of the Missourian and on KBIA Radio, we manage to give unique perspectives and go in-depth on an issue in our reporting. But on the daily reporting beat, perspective and analysis can be a challenge to get on deadline.

Enter: The Beat. It’s a new project by KBIA News and the Missourian that helps lend some added perspective and goes between the lines on our stories by simply interviewing reporters and editors about the issues they’re covering. Now, on certain stories you read in the Missourian, you’ll see an audio box that will take you to a conversation with the editor or reporter covering the story you happen to be reading.

The Beat started just over a week ago. It began partly because public radio producers have a secret — print reporters make great interviews. They can also provide good perspective on stories in the news, when asked for that perspective. We’ve found that so far in The Beat, Missourian editors and reporters are no different. When someone asks them to sum up what they’re covering, they’re pretty darn good at it. And in the process, we all get some interesting behind-the-scenes perspective and some valuable between-the-lines analysis. We think this kind of daily conversation can shed light on a story, clarify an issue and foster good conversation about the issues in our community.All of this helps us journalists do our job better.

But we’d like to know what you think. Watch for The Beat logo on the stories you’re reading, or go to the news page at kbia.org, and listen. We hope listeners and readers will listen to the conversation between KBIA and the Missourian reporters and then join in. In the meantime, we’ll keep meeting those deadlines – but we’ll take some time to step back and talk openly about the ins and outs of the stories and the beats – we’re reporting.


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