Back when I was in journalism school–writing my stories for Daily Texan on a IBM Selectric–everyone was expected to develop a “beat“. Your beat might be the night court and police station, the athletic complex, the theaters, or some other part of the institution that you knew better anyone else in the newsroom. Your goal as a beat reporter was to build up a base of knowledge and a web of contacts that allowed you to uncover news that others might miss. (For a while there actually was a Pulitzer prize for “Beat Journalism”.)
Faculty bloggers don’t have formal beats the way that news reporters do, but we do have areas of the college that we have inside and specialized knowledge about. Some of those are formal and tied to our jobs–I think a lot about emerging technology, classroom design, project management and learning theory because my understanding of those topics shape the decisions that I have to make every day.
My “beat” also includes lots of contacts in lots of places that aren’t tied directly to the job. I spend about six hours a week on the Arc Trainer at the Rec Center, some quality time on path or in the halls chatting with other social scientists and a little time most days at the Daily Grind. Those non-work related contacts provide some of the most interesting insights into life at William and Mary, like this one overheard at the Daily Grind.
Student A: One thing I want to be sure to do while I’m here is to take a class from Scott Nelson.
Student B: He’s great. When I grow up, I want to be like Scott Nelson.
Student C: That’s nothing. When I die, I want to come back as Scott Nelson.