Would exchanging beats improve journalism?

byMargaret Looney
Nov 21, 2011 in Journalism Basics

If you’re covering a beat so closely your sources are on speed dial, lines can start to blur between what’s newsworthy to you and newsworthy to society.

Take a step back from your usual coverage with a “beat exchange,” an idea proposed by Caroline McCarthy during a Digital Capital Week panel titled “Responsibility in Media in a Global Age.” McCarthy covered the same tech beat for five years with CNET and currently writes for Google’s Think Quarterly.

When you’re consumed by your beat and the need to scoop your competitors, there’s a tendency to inflate a story’s importance, she said. Swapping topics for a few months could give journalists a fresh and less partial outlook.

This could work for topics like art, technology and entertainment, but she admits the choices are limited to beats that don’t require extensive background knowledge.

McCarthy offered the idea almost facetiously, but what do you think? Could exchanging beats improve journalism?