The Role Of Curation In Journalism

from the don't-knock-it dept

Jay Rosen points us to an article out of France that takes a stab at presenting what a modern internet-era newsroom should look like. The point that I find most interesting, that helped clarify a few different ideas for me, is that it splits “journalism” into three distinct categories, all of which have a role in the newsroom:

  1. Reporters — who go out and do first person reporting — creating original stories, not just reposting rewritten wire copy.
  2. Columnists — who “start conversations and give stories another perspective.”
  3. Curators — who “‘cover’ the news by sorting, verifying and editing live everything good existing on the web and in the media. They make link journalism, they make the news more accessible.”

Now, this is interesting in a few respects. First, many “reporters” today don’t really do what is described as reporting above. That is, they often do try to take wire copy or stories that were written elsewhere, and go through the wasted process of “re-reporting” them just to pretend it’s a new and unique story for that publication. In many ways, this is a waste of resources. What would be better is if they actually encouraged #3 above — let a “curator” handle that sort of news.

Unfortunately, for the most part, newspapers seem to look down on “curating” as if it’s some sort of lesser form of journalism, and this is a sticking point that they’re going to need to get past if they want to understand how people engage with the news today. These days, everyone is a curator of the news in some fashion: they share news, comment on it, post about it, etc. But they also look to the “pros” to add more value to it as well. But if the traditional press looks down on this function, they won’t do a particularly good job of it. It’s sometimes tough for a press who used to want itself to be “the final word” on every story to admit that others may have reported it better/faster, as well as the fact that sometimes it’s better to involve the community, rather than treating the community as riffraff waiting for the word from the god-like journalists.

If a newsroom were set up with a focus on those three roles (I would add editors as well…), with the understanding that they work together as a team to both bring the most information and community to a particular story, I doubt we’d see newspapers struggling as much as they are today.

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Comments on “The Role Of Curation In Journalism”

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someone who actually knows what he's talking about says:

Re: Hell yes

the derogatory terms are “hack writers” and “churnalists.” some UK study found that 85% of reporting is just churn. in cost saving efforts, they mostly just switched to writing articles based on press releases and articles available on the web.

and from an SEO side, it is fucking awful to link out.

Rasmus says:

Maybe its totally wrong to have those three roles in the same organisation?

2. The Columnists are basically professional bloggers. (Or is it the other way?)

It seems like techdirt is a possible business model for columnists.

3. The Curators seems like a business based on news aggregation. Like

Which leaves us with the problem of finding a business model för 1. The Reporters.

1. And this is not a big problem since all you have to do is keep operating the same way as now. Small teams that generate a steady stream of original content of a certain type and of a specific area of interest. But instead of distributing this content to a portal they publish this stream directly and monetize it directly because of the traffic generated by The Curators and The Columnists.

It seems to me that the problem with news is the monolithic structure where you bundle Columnists, Reporters and Curators together with a TV-station or a large printing press.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is not possible. First annual CFW-(RTB) party "Trollin' Time"

I guess I’ll be curating at the first annual CFW-(RTB) party.

Lake Powell! Houseboat! Tents!

Sound like fun? Well, here’s the rules:
NO DRUGZ NO LAPTOPS OR INTERWEBS! NO TROLLING! NO MIKE MASNICK: HE’S NOT INVITED, BUT HIS DOG WILL BE. Just a big ass camp fire, a “Water Sled”, red meat, and Google Burgers and Google Cola (which Anti-Mike tells me is “Scotch on the rocks”)

Votes thus far:
“Next Week” 10
June: 14
July: 28
August: 8
Sepember: 3

Bob at FBI says:

Re: This is not possible. First annual CFW-(RTB) party "TrollinTime"

I don’t understand this weird ongoing fascination with Lake Powell and not inviting Mike, yet it seems you think it’s cool to dog-nap his dog on you’re wild excursion and send his dog back on Virgin Airlines like it’s some sort of joke. Do you not realize you’re posting at his own site?

Is it an inside joke of some sort?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is possible. First annual CFW-(RTB) party "TrollinTime"

Bob, thanks for your comments. As you probably know, a person up the street from me is a director in your organization, and I have invited him to said festivities a few months ago. However, he professionally declined and said that they’re not interested in a non-infringing gathering of people. “As long as there’s no drugs involved, you’re okay.”

Now, if there is some recent indifference to assembling in a recreational activity, what federal licenses do we need to acquire?

As Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar can probably tell, Lake Powell is at a 20% capacity of where it was in 1999 when then President GW Bush mandated that the Bureau of Reclamation drain Lake Powell.

This was lost energy from the decision to drain Lake Powell by a GW Bush decision. Today the only direction is to increase secondary sources of power such as Nuclear or otherwise.

I’m going to troll there, even if you decide not to. I’m also going to have a few groups play some amazing music in one of the most amazing (acoustically speaking) amphitheaters there. But you have to get there by boat.

Good luck with whatever they’ve tasked you with. Have a great weekend.

SteveHedberg (user link) says:

I think the curator is very important, especially in today’s world where if you don’t have someone to sort all the information available, it can be very overwhelming. This is why I like social media sites so much, as everyone gets to be a curator and if you find the right community, most of the stories that make it to the top are interesting and of high quality. Of course, the hard part is finding the right community.

bugmenot (profile) says:

curation, does that mean eliminate the misinformation

Newspapers are losing circulation because they contain too much misinformation. Who buys rotting fruit? What is too much? Well, my kids were taught in school to never cite a newspaper to support a fact! and that was 10 years ago! Today, many papers rely on the AP. The AP’s science and health articles are trash! They either don’t say anything or they pick up some sensational press release and up the hype a factor of 10 and not bother to disclose how many reports discredit what they just reported! Even the front page of a paper is trash. Almost all political reports contain adjectives hyping or knocking a person or a party! A biased journalist is like a physicist who doesn’t know arithmetic! Curation is needed! or the news media will become defunct! People won’t pay for misinformation! or at least the people the advertisers want won’t pay. No one can say anything about the below intelligence world!

TW Burger (profile) says:

Re: curation, does that mean eliminate the misinformation

I agree, any newspaper article I have read that I had first hand knowledge of as a participant had the facts mostly wrong. If a scientific or technical fact was used that I was knowledgeable of the information in the article was almost always completely wrong or was skewed to fit a political agenda.

Fern (profile) says:

I think newspapers (and the rest of traditional MSM) look down on curating because it is not particularly well suited to the mediums in which they work. Curating is natural in online media because it is easy to give a brief synopsis and then provide a link where interested people can find more information. But in print and television, it’s not as easy to share the original source. Can you imagine a newspaper that is still primarily print based providing summaries of AP stories and then saying, “if you’re interested in reading more, go to” Same problem with TV. And it’s clumsy to direct people to their website for “show notes,” though I see many local news stations essentially doing that.

Jeffrey (user link) says:

I did a blog post that covered newsroom roles, the decomposition of the roles of the news reporter and editor, a year ago:

What’s being referred to here as the “curator” has traditionally been the role of an editor. (It is a fallacy that most people who work in a newsroom and have the word “editor” in their job title spend most of their time editing copy.)

I’m not a fan of the term “curator” since it makes the news seem as though it belongs in a museum.

Lots of news organizations (in particular, the larger, magazine-ish ones) make a distinction between the role of news reporter and news writer.

J.A. Ginsburg (user link) says:

Editor or Curator?

Jeffrey McManus’ point about the museum vibe of the word “curator” is well taken. Although I refer to myself as the editor of, I have come to feel that curator might actually be a more better term.

TrackerNews’ beat covers health issues (“one health”), humanitarian work and technology relevant to both both. It is a little unusual in that stories are not organized by category, but grouped for contextual relevance (breaking news, research papers, blog posts, websites, book reviews, e-books – print, audio, video). Eventually, everything ends up in a searchable database. There is actually quite a bit more going on both on the site and behind the scenes. Here is a little slide show that will give you better of the scope of content:

This is very much a small, quirky, experiment-in-progress, but it has been a fascinating challenge to tell stories in a kind of haiku of links. There is something liberating about tapping one-off, obscure and/or older stories that can bring a deeper understanding of breaking news.

fin (user link) says:

You say curator, I say copy editor

The notion of curator as a new role is mistaken – it is almost exactly the work done by a sub-editor (copy editor).

Curators, in this context, classify, verify and refine stories – no different to the copy editing process. Sub-editors make stories readable and give them a hierarchy by their position on a page. They even “link” different stories, both by page position and refers.

The mental processes involved in this are readily applicable to the web and carry the added bonus that your website keeps some of the tone, quality control and institutional memory of your printed publication.

Subs have always practised “link journalism” and have always made the news “more accessible”. They represented what used to be known as the readers, but we now call the community.

The reason so few newspapers retrain their subs as ‘curators’ is they are expensive. Only when newspaper managements wake up to the value of “curation” by their editing staffs will that situation change.

Karan Bavandi (user link) says:

Curation is the research arm of Journalism

Curation is the process of finding, organizing and now sharing – Hopefully what every good journalist does before they write.

Powerful tools for news curation are excellent research grounds for journalist. Curation should make the whole porcess of story writing easier . Here is an example of how it can work –

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