Cryptocurrency is more than just a technology or finance story, it’s a beat

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The general stories around the cryptocurrency market and its rapid ascent share themes with every other industry and beat – technology, aviation, sports, what have you – but it’s all confounded by the addition of this fairly new, rapidly evolving technology stack mixed with an equally new, equally changing financial asset. It’s complicated, and so, writing about crypto is also complicated.

The cryptocurrency market has grown rapidly in the last few months, with people pouring literally billions of dollars into various coins. That sort of rapid growth has (very naturally) drawn scrutiny and attention from basically everybody: Elon Musk tweets about dogecoin, MLB referees have patches representing a crypto exchange on their uniforms, and reporters from all over have been covering different aspects of this industry. On the whole, this seems like a good thing – the industry is new but it needs both close scrutiny from skeptical voices and accessible explanations to help people understand what’s happening. 

One of the biggest issues I’ve seen around this new wave of coverage, however, is that much of it doesn’t come with any sense of history. Reporters who don’t normally cover crypto are tasked with covering a single issue or a small aspect of an issue on top of their existing beats. Oftentimes, that means these stories lack context about a company, cryptocurrency or the individuals involved, which isn’t noticeable if you’re new to the industry, but which acts as a glaring red flag for readers who have been involved with this sector for some time.

A lot of this is especially visible in stories where the crypto industry does meet a more mainstream beat, such as climate change. We’ve seen articles that use the bitcoin network, which is powered through an energy-intensive protocol, as a proxy for the broader industry at large, despite the fact that some cryptocurrencies have a negligible energy impact. There are cryptocurrencies that are dependent on hard drives, rather than GPUs, and it’s a disservice if a reporter conflates the two given that they’re wholly different parts of a computer. 

To be clear, I don’t think this is any single reporter’s fault. It’s hard to parachute into a beat that isn’t your own and try to find sources, especially in an industry where some of the loudest voices are perhaps a bit biased. But it is a definite issue that needs addressing. The solution may be for news organizations to dedicate a/some reporter(s) to a cryptocurrency beat, or at least add cryptocurrencies to their technology and finance beats. 

The flip side is that we have seen a large number of frankly excellent long reads and news stories around the industry from reporters who have had the chance to spend a great deal of time on a story, ranging from profiles of up-and-coming CEOs to from-the-ground reporting at crypto events.

And of course, the industry has its own trade press publications (such as CoinDesk) that critics may claim are only here to push press releases and pump token prices, but which can also provide valuable, informed criticism or break important stories about frauds and hacks.

After 3.5 years covering this industry full-time, my view is that crypto is more than just a technology or finance story, and so it should be treated as more than just a segment of those beats.