There's a lot of talk about media convergence, about traditional reporters spreading their craft into new media in ways that are as facile as what they do in print. But for all the talk, there aren't enough sterling examples of beat reporters plying their trade as well--or better--in the new media as they do in the old.
One fine example, however, is Barry Svrluga, who covers the Washington Nationals for The Washington Post. In addition to his excellent day-by-day coverage of the baseball team, through game stories and notes sidebars, Svrgula also writes a daily (or more) blog, Nationals Journal; does regular podcasts and participates in a weekly online discsussion with readers about on the Nats. He even does some TV now and then. It's all terrific.
I don't know Svrluga, but I'm a huge fan. Based on his output, which seems damn close to 24/7, he may be the hardest-working beat reporter in the business. By taking advantage of multiple media, he gives Nats fans something close to blanket coverage of the team, as well as interacting on a constant basis with his readers in the blog and chats. Svrluga openly solicits story ideas from readers and regularly uses the blog and discussion to respond to reader requests for information about the team that he might have left out of a story. There are many other blogging beat reporters, of course, but I think few are serving their readers as well as Svrluga.
In fact, it might be argued that Svrluga's best coverage is taking place in his new-media endeavors. He seems more willing to take chances or to dig deep in the blog and discussions, partly because he has unlimited space and partly because those media, because they're more informal, seem to melt away some of the more conservative conventions of standard daily reporting. (This also seems to happen in some of the Post's other reporter-driven online discussions, which seem more freewheeling than the paper's traditional journalism.) Svrluga's blog and discussions seem to have more inside information, speculation and insight than even his first-rate game stories. You really feel like you're getting inside dope in a way you rarely do from even a well-written, well-reported conventional story.
This makes you wonder, at some point, whether the tail is wagging the dog—or even which medium should be his primary focus. Is Svrluga a print reporter who blogs? Or is he morphing into something new, a blogger and discussion leader who also happens to write a daily print story?
It's an interesting question, and it's at the heart of successful convergence: What's a beat reporter's primary product? The traditional kneejerk reaction is to say it's the printed story, but the evidence is starting to suggest otherwise. And that's a good thing. Because in fully using all the media available to him, Svrluga--like other reporters who are diving deep into these new media forms--is pointing the way toward a new, more comprehensive, more interesting form of beat reporting. It can't happen soon enough.