Musings on curation

Who are your trusted news curators?

I have a few favorites, most of which I follow through e-mails. To follow the changing news industry, I subscribe to daily news feeds from mediabistro.com and freepress.net. (I’ve always found each a cleaner, more streamlined read than Romanesko, whose blurbs tease more than they deliver too often for my taste.) Mediabistro curates industry news and trends with a bit of gossip thrown in for spice, mostly from newspapers and magazines and their websites along with the occasional broadcast story or blog post. Free Press has a lot of great journalism stories, some of which overlap Mediabistro’s, but it also curates stories about the FCC, media regulation generally, net neutrality, cable companies, Internet Service Providers and wireless communication. It’s got a tighter focus on technology and curates more from niche blogs. Merely reading its headlines and blurbs keeps me abreast of issues in areas tangential to my main concerns. There’s a fair amount of reformist rhetoric from Free Press, which is, after all, an advocacy group, but the news feed generally includes news stories that discuss opposing viewpoints, and sometimes it even curates directly to more conservative coverage. I respect that.

That’s all I have time for regularly, and I read those two feeds daily in part because I require the students in Journalism 24/7 to do so. I get daily feeds from 3 Quarks Daily, but lately I’ve been archiving those unopened to avoid temptation. I also like The Chronicle Review, which isn’t really curated; it’s straightforward magazine editing, the weekly arts-and-ideas component of The Chronicle of Higher Education. But it covers such a wide range of topics that the experience of dipping into its articles feels broader than reading a magazine usually does. (Many of its stories are behind a pay wall to nonsubscribers.)

Paul Gillin had a good post a while back about using Twitter to curate breaking news. During the Chilean earthquake, he followed Twitter for links to the best photos, videos and updates on the tsunami threat facing the Hawai’i archipelago. I had a brief fling with using the people I follow on Twitter to lead me to great stories about the news industry, but I got tired of trying to drink from that fire hose and tend to stay away from it now.

Finally, there’s Facebook. I click on many a link that a friend (real or Facebookian) posts, and I have become a fan of some online magazines to keep up with their contents while avoiding RSS feeds, which I dislike even more than Twitter.

Two questions, dear readers:

First, the one with which I started this post. Who are your trusted news curators?

Second (if three questions could be counted as one): Where does curating fit into the j-school curriculum? Does it need to be taught or merely identified as something journalists need to do as part of creating their brands? Are there ethical questions about the “link economy” that should be teased out and explored?

  1. My favorite news curator would have to be Newser (www.newser.com) – I’m a big fan of its visual format, the fact that it is powered by humans, and the way I can choose to read an article in a brief summary by hovering over it or clicking the link itself to read a short recap by the Newser team. There’s still an option to go directly to the source as well.

    There’s been some controversy about Newser as to whether it’s providing adequate linkage back to sources, specifically some criticism and a cease-and-desist letter from The Wrap.

    In regards to teaching curation, I do go over it a little bit in my online classes, but from what I can see from observing folks at the NY Times, my own newspapers and various other medium and small operations, content curation often boils down to the decisions of one or two Web editors on duty at a media organization at any given time.

    That said, a lot of our own content curation will be hard to teach hands-on until we implement our own online systems to show the students. Something I’m working on.

    To me at least, it seems more realistic to push the direction of multimedia so that students are producing rich pieces that are of and for the Web, since that’s where they are likely to get a good running start in the industry.

  2. Curation is evolving very quickly. Given the huge volume of data, I believe non-human or machine assisted curation is the future. My company, Loud3r, provides aggregation and curation tools for journalists and publishers.

    Our experience has been that the process breaks down into 5 steps.

    Discovery:
    Knowing about a breaking story, cool link, or rising trend is a pre-cursor to acting on it.

    Filtering:
    The web is awash in duplicates and near-duplicates. The volume of data far outweighs the volume of unique stories.

    Curation:
    Selecting for your readers the items that reflect a definable POV are key to building an identity and brand as a curator.

    Commentary:
    It’s probably not enough to simply point people to cool content. Extending your POV by actually providing comment makes your site a destination.

    Distribution:
    Publish everywhere. Your readers access content through lots of sites and technologies. Make sure they can find you.

    I hope this is a helpful mini-guide to curation.

    Lowell Goss
    CEO, Loud3r

    • Lowell, thanks for writing. I think you’re right about the importance of each of the five steps you described. Where, though, does the algorithm or machine-assisted aspect come into the tools your company provides? Not in the commentary step, I presume — but could you tell me more about Loud3r?

      Barbara

    • Sam Kilb
    • April 14th, 2010

    I just posted on using Twitter to monitor media news (http://bit.ly/drcMdT). It is certainly a fire hose, but it’s still useful in picking out what’s happening in the last five minutes. For example, I learned about the cease-and-desist letter Wasim references above from Twitter…the letter was re-tweeted several times among the people I follow in the media world.

    J-students definitely need to know about curation, curation methods and website curators. With the exception of Ari, I doubt most of the journalism students are fishing for news, media-related and otherwise, with a wide enough net. It’s overwhelming at times, and it would be of immense use to students to learn a method (especially something that they could learn to use and tweak for their own purposes) for gathering news. Learning to understand how it works on the gathering end can help when (if) we end up on the putting-it-together end.

  3. Cable companies are already offering bundled internet and cable tv services at a cheap price :

  4. cable companies are also offering broadband internet these days and the cost is cheap too `:~

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