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“Today’s Quote” of Washington Times (February 1) picked up the answer of White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney to a reporter when he was asked by the reporter whether the White House was planning a concerted effort on job creation just as it has on immigration reform and gun control. :

Carney replied:

"I know you're kind of new to the beat, but this president has been focused on this issue more than any other, and that will not change."

What does “the beat” here mean? Is it situation, place, trend, or movement? Apparently the questioner seems to be a cub reporter to Press Secretary. Doesn't Carney's answer carry a derogatory tone?

I can’t find the usage of ‘beat’ in this form in English dictionaries at hand.

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4 Answers 4

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Beat reporting is a journalistic term:

the craft of in-depth reporting on a particular issue, sector, organization or institution over time. Beat reporters build up a base of knowledge on and gain familiarity with the topic, allowing them to provide insight and commentary in addition to reporting straight facts. This distinguishes them from other journalists who might cover similar stories from time to time.

And from the same link:

The term comes from the noun beat in the sense of an assigned regular route or habitual path, as for a policeman. By analogy, the beat of a reporter is the topic they have been assigned for reporting.

So Carney was using journalistic lingo to point out that the reporter was new and might not be up to speed with everyone else.

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Beat:

3 an area allocated to a police officer and patrolled on foot:
his beat was in North London
public clamour for more policemen on the beat

  • a spell of duty allocated to a police officer:
    his beat ended at 6 a.m.
  • an area regularly frequented by someone:
    a few, new to their beat, looked at him with interest
  • informal a person’s area of interest: his beat is construction, property, and hotels

While probably not derisive, Carney is certainly putting the reporter in his place.

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Beat here means:

"In newspapering, the primary focus of a reporter's stories (such as police/courts, education, city government, business etc.)."

You'll note this is the seventh of eight definitions, so I understand your not finding it easily amongst the more common definitions.

I assume that this meaning comes from the sixth of eight definitions on the same page:

"(law enforcement) The route of a patrol by a guard or officer as in walk the beat."

Carney was pointing out that the reporter was new to the area, and I'm sure you're right that his answer carried a derisive tone, pointing out something that (he felt) the reporter should have known.

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Merriam-Webster's online dictionary says this:

3
a : a regularly traversed round (the cop on the beat)
b : a group of news sources that a reporter covers regularly

The question was either naive (even someone like me who doesn't regularly follow American political news knows enough not to ask this particular question) or disingenuous. The reporter is either uninformed or biased. He deserved to be slapped on the back of the hand for his stupid question.

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