Walking and talking on beat: the importance of shoe-leather journalism, reporting beats & local reporting

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 10, 2017

Both the newsroom and process of obtaining news have changed drastically as things settled into the digital age, but the old-fashioned term “shoe-leather” still describes the best kind of reporting done in America, according to chapter two, “Local Reporting and Beats”, of America’s Best News Writing (ABNW). Shoe-leather reporting requires the reporter to leave the crutch of telephones and computers behind. Instead, they have get out and interact with the community, hear out concerns and create the opportunity for those stories to be told. It’s the act of walking and talking.

In the conversation of beat reporting — or a specialized area of in-depth coverage for a reporter — shoe-leather goes hand-in-hand. Regardless of the beat, the need to develop sources, form a relationship with the community and continue learning as you broaden your horizons is always important.

Below are some examples of reporters who figured out how to walk the walk and talk the talk successfully.

Rick Bragg – “All She Has, $150,000, Is Going to a University” (1995)


Thomas Boswell – “Losing It: Careers Fall Like Autumn Leaves” (1980)


Jonathan Bor – “It Fluttered and Became Bruce Murray’s Heart” (1984)


Mitch Albom – “Mackenzie Football Star Another Gunplay Victim (1995)


Russell Eshleman Jr. – “Even for Trees, Age Could Have Its Privileges” (1991)

“Domino’s Bites Back at Tax” (1991)


Dan Neil – “Caught Up in the Crossfire (2003)

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