working the Capitol beat

< Previous | Next >

foxcowboy

Member
Turkish
I have been reading an essay by Jonathan Franzen where he discusses the effects of new media technologies on journalism, social services and literature. He says:

"How can you have a functioning, complicated democracy of 300 million people without professional journalists? The boosters are always saying, well, you can crowdsource it, you can leak it, you can take pictures with your iPhone. Bullshit. You can’t crowdsource working the Capitol beat for twenty years. We need to think critically about the consequences of our machines."

I'm almost clueless about the sentence in bold. Is it the USA Capitol? What would "working the beat" mean in this context? Some dictionaries say it means "patrolling a specific area" but I'm not sure how that adds up to this?

Thank you!
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Yes, it is the USA capitol -- either all of Washington D.C, or just the U.S. government.

    A "beat" (countable noun) started as the standard area that a policeman patrols. Today his "beat" is a certain area, where he walks all day.

    This can be used metaphorically. A journalist "workng the Capitol beat" is a journalist working Capitol news every day. I assume that means "US government news" but I am not sure -- it might also include "Washington D.C. local city news".
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    He's talking about 300 million Americans and democracy so it can't be about the local Washington area. 300 million Americans don't care about that and aren't affected by that. The "beat" he is talking about is reporting on what happens in the Capitol building, which is the home of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. That does greatly affect 300 million Americans and democracy.

    Another "beat" would be the White House. The reporters who report on what happens at the White House are different from the reporters who report from the Capitol building. Another beat would be the Supreme Court. Those reporters are a different group specializing in talking about Supreme Court decisions.

    The overall point he is trying to make is that reporters on a beat for many years ("twenty years") have time to become acquainted with the people in that part of government and learn many things. They know a lot of details about how that part of the government works and who has what power and which people are allies and which are enemies, and they learn lots of secrets that most people don't know (what politicians say in public is not the same thing they say in private). He is saying that kind of deep knowledge can't be replaced by regular people taking pictures with iPhones or by crowdsourcing. Those people lack that deep knowledge that a reporter gains by spending 20 years on a beat.
     

    AnythingGoes

    Senior Member
    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    The overall point he is trying to make is that reporters on a beat for many years ("twenty years") have time to become acquainted with the people in that part of government and learn many things. They know a lot of details about how that part of the government works and who has what power and which people are allies and which are enemies, and they learn lots of secrets that most people don't know (what politicians say in public is not the same thing they say in private). He is saying that kind of deep knowledge can't be replaced by regular people taking pictures with iPhones or by crowdsourcing. Those people lack that deep knowledge that a reporter gains by spending 20 years on a beat.
    :thumbsup::thumbsup:
     

    foxcowboy

    Member
    Turkish
    He's talking about 300 million Americans and democracy so it can't be about the local Washington area. 300 million Americans don't care about that and aren't affected by that. The "beat" he is talking about is reporting on what happens in the Capitol building, which is the home of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. That does greatly affect 300 million Americans and democracy.

    Another "beat" would be the White House. The reporters who report on what happens at the White House are different from the reporters who report from the Capitol building. Another beat would be the Supreme Court. Those reporters are a different group specializing in talking about Supreme Court decisions.

    The overall point he is trying to make is that reporters on a beat for many years ("twenty years") have time to become acquainted with the people in that part of government and learn many things. They know a lot of details about how that part of the government works and who has what power and which people are allies and which are enemies, and they learn lots of secrets that most people don't know (what politicians say in public is not the same thing they say in private). He is saying that kind of deep knowledge can't be replaced by regular people taking pictures with iPhones or by crowdsourcing. Those people lack that deep knowledge that a reporter gains by spending 20 years on a beat.
    You are amazing, thank you kentix! Wish there was a way to include your reply as a footnote in the book!
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top