Lesson Plan – Beat Memo Part I
Finding People and Sources in your Community District (CD)
Your Community District (assigned by your professor) will be your beat. Find sources and information for your beat and add them to your beat memo, which will be completed in three parts, through in-class exercises and outside-class assignments. You can use this beat memo template for any future beats you cover (topic, place, person or agency).
The NYC Neighborhood & Community District Research Guide will help you find any of the resources assigned. [Note: if you are outside of NYC, search on Google using site:gov for similar types of resources available for your city or town]
A note about NYC Community Boards
- Each Community District has a Community Board serving as the local representative board of city gov’t.
- 59 community boards in NYC.
- Each has up to 50 unsalaried members, appointed by borough president.
- Has committees, holds monthly meetings and public hearings.
- CBs play advisory role in issues involving community welfare, including city budget.
- District manager (salaried position) appointed by board.
Finding People Toolbox
You review this Finding People Toolbox for Reporting guide with students. Many of the tools require subscriptions, but many others are free and open source. For this lesson, we are focusing on finding sources for your beat.
Finding “Top-down” sources
“Top down” refers to elected or appointed officals holding a public office. “An “appointed official” is someone who is appointed by [selected by] an elected official or governing board, holds an office (function or mandate) in an organization or government and participates in the exercise of authority (either their own or that of their superior and/or employer).”
When you contact these official’s offices, you can ask to speak to a staff member whose work is related to your beat, like the Borough President’s liaison for Housing.
Find Elected Officials for your CD or neighborhood – click on the tab “Politics, Gov’t & Agencies”
Explore the NYC Green Book for NYC and State agency contacts.
You can search by name and keyword, or use the advanced option:
Search the word homeless under “organization” for agencies
This NYC Map allows you to search by address, CD, and zip code. On the left you can filter for congressional and city council district, and many other variables.
A) Find Top-down Sources for Your Community District/Beat using the tools listed above.
List at least three of them include name, title, email, and phone.
B) Find leading community-based advocacy organizations and community centers using the tools listed above. (Please include a link to the website, twitter handle, name, contact info, and email addresses for main contacts at the organizations). List five of these organizations.
Find community-based organizations
Your Community Board’s Website may have a list of community-based organizations.
Search by Zip code, then click on the tabs circled in the screenshot below:
Brooklyn Nonprofit Directory by neighborhood
Center for Bronx Nonprofits by zip code (a Hostos Community College Project)
Melissa Data Nonprofit Search by zipcode
Outside of Class Assignment - Complete Beat Memo part 1, due in two weeks:
A) Bottom-up Sources – “Hit the Streets”
“Bottom-up” means anybody local who knows something of value—a local barber who hears everything, for example, or somebody who has occupied the same corner bench for a decade while watching everything; a funeral home operator who has buried two generations of Brooklynites and is closing in on a third.
- List at least five people in your CD, to whom you have spoken.
- Give their name, contact information (emails, telephone numbers), write a detailed paragraph on what they talked to you about and what information they told you that could inform your reporting. We may contact them to confirm.
- Be sure they are people you have talked to either in person or on the phone.
- Mix it up, don’t just list shopkeepers, talk to people from diverse spheres.
B) Contact Three Top-down Sources you’ve identified and talk to them or their representatives about issues in your beat.
- Local politicians will send a representative to the Community Board Meeting, and you can catch them there.
- You must talk to these folks either in person or on the phone, not just email.
- List their name, contact information, title, (emails, telephone numbers) below.
- Write a detailed paragraph for each contact on what they talked to you about and what information they told you that could inform your reporting. We may contact them to confirm.
C) “Third Places” List at least two.
Third Places are those places in your CD where people gather, “cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, bars, hair salons, and other hangouts,” to discuss the issues at the heart of the community. Give a briefish description below of at least two of the places in your CD, the people you talked to there and what they discussed.
D) List local media sources (newspapers, blogs, websites, podcasts, etc.) that focus on your CD. List at least two.
E) Find one Facebook group in your CD, neighborhood or beat that could be a source for your reporting. Provide a link to the group.
F) Find religious leaders in your area:
Then list names, phone, and email for at least two clergypeople/religious leaders in your area, each from a different faith.