News beats vs. phenomena at Quartz
Gideon Litchfield, the global news editor of the new business news site Quartz, writes about how it is organizing its beats in an unusual fashion.
Litchfield writes, “So instead of fixed beats, we structure our newsroom around an ever-evolving collection of phenomena—the patterns, trends and seismic shifts that are shaping the world our readers live in. ‘Financial markets’ is a beat, but ‘the financial crisis’ is a phenomenon. ‘The environment’ is a beat, but ‘climate change’ is a phenomenon. ‘Energy’ is a beat, but ‘the global surge of energy abundance’ is a phenomenon. ‘China’ is a beat, but ‘Chinese investment in Africa’ is a phenomenon. We call these phenomena our ‘obsessions.’ These are the kinds of topics Quartz will put in its navigation bar, and as the world changes, so will they.
“This is both a practical and a philosophical shift. Practical, because reporting these themes within a traditional beat structure is difficult: they often cut across beat boundaries, taking in politics, economics, technology, and other issues. Our journalists have to be, to some extent, all-rounders, who aren’t afraid to get outside their usual expertise and track the topic they’re following wherever it leads.
“And philosophical, because it means changing what might (a little pretentiously) be called the phenomenology of journalism. Phenomenology is about how we structure our experience of the world. Beats provide an institutional structure. Obsessions are a more human one.”
Read more here.