Content curation for journalists and the rise of independent storytellers


My research on journalism and content curation, for the Reuters Institute for the Study of

International Journalism Festival: MediaCamp a...
International Journalism Festival: MediaCamp at Perugia, April 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Journalism lands on the International Journalism Festival website:

“After the explosion of the so-called Web 2.0, the huge success of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the rise in circulation of smartphones and the increasing importance of mobile connections, what has changed is the amount of information available to journalists. The content – text, pictures and videos – generated by users has become so widespread that is theoretically possible to cover an event from afar, just with the aid of a computing device and an Internet connection, some Twitter lists and a careful look at the right YouTube videos or Facebook pages. And in some cases, when entrance to the actual scene is too dangerous or technically challenging, that may also be the only solution.

Whether we choose to call it “information overload”, as Alvin Toffler did in 1970, or “filter failure” following Clay Shirky’s more recent definition, the problem of how to find relevant information among the thousand tiny pieces of content published online every day cannot be underestimated.

Journalists have always had to face the problem of how to verify a certain piece of information or to distinguish reliable from unreliable sources, but the emergence of the Net and the explosion in the consumption of news on the Internet has brought new challenges, making it even more difficult than before to distinguish between truth, half-truth and falsehood and raising new questions as well. For instance: how to give due credit to the original uploader of footage and protect his rights when the video is embedded by a news organization in its pages? How to draw the thin red line between quoting and plagiarism, in an age in which a lot of outlets use the same multimedia content, found somewhere on the Internet, sometimes without even quoting the source?

That’s one of the reasons why a new professional figure is increasingly gaining importance: the content curator, a term used to define a person who selects the best information found online with regard to its quality and relevance, aggregates it, linking to the original source of news, and provides context and analysis. The curator doesn’t have to be a journalist: he or she may be a blogger or a tweeter as well but, since many of the skills required to a good curator are the same ones needed to a good reporter, journalists are maybe the best fit to play this role and many of them have already begun experimenting with new forms of storytelling based on content curation.

This is nothing new in its essence: journalists have been doing it for a while, although usually splitting different tasks among different professionals; the reporter discovers and selects sources and provides a first draft of content; the editor assembles, sometimes integrates and shapes that content; the verification part of the process can be done by the reporter, by the editor, or by both, according to the procedures of the newsrooms, or on a case by case basis.

Thanks to the rise of new curation tools and platforms, this kind of work can also be performed by single professionals, whom we might call “independent” curators. They might be freelancers or amateurs, or they might be working for a news organization, although with such a level of independence and visibility to transform their job into a one-man-show.

Continues on the Journalism Festival’s website

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