Curation is the new editing

I’ve been planning to discuss the idea of digital news “curation” with the students in my Journalism 24/7 class. This blog post by the ever-insightful Ken Doctor is just what I need to kick-start the conversation.

Ken writes:

“The idea of the FWIX’s and Outside.ins: provide a round-up of the best local news, by aggregating local news sources, big-time and small, blog, story and broadcast, professional and user-gen, applying some hierarchy of quality to it. Both efforts race for the same audiences and related advertising as the original content-creators, AOL’s newly expanding Patch and Examiner.com. In addition to those of course, the number of hyperlocal efforts increases by the day (and some of them are being rounded up by local dailies, witness the Seattle Times aggregation, for instance).”

Later in the post, he notes:

“The new-fangled word for it is curation, rounding up lots of content, providing some hierarchy of value. Of course, it’s just good editing, bolstered by intelligent technology, and a growing flexibility to accept and work with a wider world of voices, styles and views. … Importantly, it also asserts that readers are smart: they can tell the difference between a New York Times (or Sarasota Herald) byline and that of a community contributor. That assertion is a Pro-Am gamble for the Times and all proud brands, but it’s one that should be made — and backed up with clear, prominent and never-ending disclosure.” (emphasis added)

I’ve quoted at such length from Ken’s post because, as we teach our students, you quote what you couldn’t say better yourself. Ken captures the key points that ally this new style of editing, the curation function, with solid journalistic practices. “Clear, prominent and never-ending disclosure” prevents the stupid mistakes that have felled reporters and bloggers in several recent, highly publicized incidents. Disclosure also protects news organizations that practice digital curation from problems erupting from the stories the curators link to.

Disclosure helps readers increase their news literacy.

I’m convinced that curation holds great promise for hard-pressed newsrooms that have closed bureaus and slashed reporting staffs. As Mike Masnick recently pointed out on techdirt, curation could free reporters from re-reporting run-of-the-mill stories and allow them to pursue folos or fresh angles or different stories. I’m not saying that re-reporting stories broken elsewhere is a worthless exercise; re-reporting can certainly correct or clarify flaws in the original piece. And assignment editors will have to make tough choices when they could link to another news outlet’s (or a reliable blogger’s) take on a mayoral press conference or a journo scrum on the courthouse steps instead of tying up one of their own for a day.

But tough times mean tough choices.

Beyond its necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention appeal, curation allows a news organization to expand the perspectives it offers its readers. It gives editors the power to guide readers who want to explore a topic or issue. A trusted news brand that curates successfully will keep curious readers from moving off its site to hunt around on Google and Wikipedia. Curation allows journalists to harness the power and multiplicity of the Web, adding breadth and depth. A reader’s good experience with an editor’s curation should deepen her trust in the site where she started her journey.

    • Matt W.
    • March 19th, 2010

    I think it’s really interesting to note that – at least as far as I know – Fark.com, a comedy site, was the first to take this kind of approach. Their founder, Drew Curtis, for all his vitriol for the mainstream media, has always talked up the virtues of good editing over herd mentality. I have this theory that, at least in this day and age, the media follows comedy’s lead into new technologies.

    • DANIELA
    • May 16th, 2013

    hello!,I like your writing very much! proportion we keep up a correspondence extra about your post on AOL? I need an expert in this house to solve my problem.

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