Five Tips for Covering Manufacturing

July 6, 2015

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Manufacturing reporting and money reporting go hand-in-hand. Every U.S. city has a factory somewhere and covering them is just as important as any other business story. Stories could range from reporting on a food factory’s tax incentives to an automotive plant’s plans to move. Regardless, you will need to become an expert quickly. Here are our top five tips for reporting on manufacturing:

1. Learn the material.

Before you start on your beat, it would be helpful to know how manufacturing works. If you aren’t able to take a manufacturing or operations management course, try and find a syllabus at the school closest to you and do some of the required reading. It’ll give you the necessary background information to be able to ask intelligent questions and find story leads.

2. Find the unions.

Unions can be very helpful but extremely difficult to find sources in. Many members are angry and have been instructed not to speak to reporters. Try and use mutual acquaintances to use as introductions and attend receptions to ease your way into the group.

3. Don’t pick sides.

As a journalist, it’s never your job to pick a side in a fight. Though it can be easy to look at your story and think one side is right, take personal opinions out of the equation. Staying neutral will ensure you don’t burn bridges with management or with unions.

4. Attend conferences and factory tours.

Attending conferences and visiting factories will help you to establish a relationship with sources and demonstrate your dedication to getting to know them. Conferences, however, can get very technical so be sure to do your research before hand.

5. Set your alarm and your coffee pot early.

When visiting factories or meeting with sources at work, remember that these building operate on a very early schedule. The early shift means around 6 a.m. and the night shift starts around 3 p.m. Be flexible when setting up appointments and learn the hours for each individual business.

Want more? Download our “Guide to Business Beat Basics” for tips on covering money in manufacturing and other beats.