Narrative, document-based traditional journalism tends to function on the principle that one or more reporters, assigned to an interesting "beat," will develop and communicate the following:
- Subject-matter mastery
- Necessary background context
- A working understanding of the relevant, credible sources that are involved in the subject
- A meaningful assessment of the persons and institutions involved in the ongoing "master narrative" that surrounds the subject.
Regular readers will, over time, internalize these features, and themselves become more expert in the subject. However, since the beat is assigned to cover subjects that typically have no beginning, middle and end, incoming readers must intuit these features, as they are not explicit in each story.
Consequently, journalists and sources tend to share a similar system of knowledge, but the terms of this system are not explicitly recorded or curated in a way that allows for them to be easily retrieved, communicated and fact-checked. A beat system may also artificially limit, without due cause, the inclusion of perspectives and data that reporters and sources consider to be irrelevant or unvetted.