The new direction of journalism: Curation and aggregation

18 Jan

As I read the article Mindy McAdams wrote about journalists as curators, I couldn’t help but wonder what the difference really is between what journalists have traditionally done and what McAdams is suggesting the journalist’s new role is in society. She said the journalistic equivalent of curation involves seven steps. Journalists should select the best representatives, sort through links, provide context, arrange individual items, organize the whole product, add expertise and update the “exhibit.”  Though the technologies involved with each of these duties may have changed over time, the basic essence of them still remains. The journalist’s job is to bring the readers accurate, up-to-date news in the most clear and concise manner. According to a Mashable.com article  by Josh Sternberg, other journalists share my same viewpoint. Andy Carvin, of NPR, Carvin describes the media as being the middle between the public and sources. That has historically been the basic role of journalists and this fact hasn’t changed at all with the times.

One thing that has changed over time is the amount of information available. Ernie Smith, editor of ShortFormBlog sees journalists as tour guides here to help the public navigate through all this information. Sternberg says “Curators help navigate readers through the vast ocean of content, and while doing so, create a following based on several factors: trust, taste and tools.” Steven Rosenbaum writes an article describing the sheer volume of information the public is now expected to digest in order to remain informed citizens. He explains that citizens now have cameras, blogs and other ways to gather and share news in ways like never before. He stresses that we aren’t losing the need for journalists, but journalists are instead becoming even more important to help the public find the news they need and want to access amid all the other data now being generated.

As far as aggregation goes, there is a thin line journalists should be careful not to cross. The problem with this thin line is no one is certain where it is drawn. In order to keep aggregation under control and protect our journalistic integrity as a unit, there should be some universal standards set to control the volume of news aggregated as well as the way journalists go about it.

A GigaOm article demonstrates how aggregation causes rifts between news organizations that disagree with each other over how it should be used in journalism. This is a problem because not only is it important for journalists to remain united, but it’s also damaging for the journalism industry’s reputation when one journalist is calling into question another’s integrity.

As far as I can see, as long as there aren’t so many links that the story becomes confusing and credit is still given to the original reporter, aggregation shouldn’t pose a huge problem in journalism. (Though I did find it interesting that the Miami Herald is accused of not linking to the original stories they gather information from.) Our job is to deliver the news and aggregating other works and linking them in our story can help give our readers the full picture. Our main goal as journalists is to provide our readers with the news and we should be working together to do this to achieve the best result possible. The same article that accuses the Miami Herald of skipping links on their aggregated stories also points out that Google uses links in their formula when ordering search results. When done right, aggregation should be a win-win-win situation for both reporters involved as well as the readers.

And for old-school journalists, I can’t help but wonder what the difference is between aggregation, where the reporter gathers information from other articles, and using stories from the AP wire. Both situations involve a publication printing stories from other reporters in order to bring the news to the readers.

Aggregation, on the other hand, I think can take away from our jobs as journalists in certain cases. As pointed out here, some journalists view aggregation as an excuse to cut out their own commentary and character. Both aggregation and curation pose this problem. If journalists spend too much time delivering the news as other people have written it, it strips away all their personal identity as journalists. Individual journalists will become dehumanized and simply be machines with the purpose of searching out and delivering news from other sources. We have to be careful that we don’t use these practices so much that we lose our individuality as journalists. This individuality is how readers identify their favorite reporters and news organizations. Individuality and character as a journalist is one thing that makes our profession special and unique.

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One Response to “The new direction of journalism: Curation and aggregation”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers January 20, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    The quality of this falls under Good on the Rubric – though it could have done more to incorporate “the work or experiences of other students, scholars and experts” – that would include using your own experience to inform the post.

    Good point on making distinctions between role of journalists now and then

    Some editing problems here:
    A GigaOm article demonstrates TRY TO AVOID THIS ACCORDING TO ARTICLE CONSTRUCTION – BE A BIT MORE ARTFUL IN INTRODUCING SOURCES
    As pointed out here, some journalists ALSO AVOID THIS KIND OF CONSTRUCTION – BE MORE ARTFUL
    Miami Herald is accused of not linking to the original stories they gather information from. THIS WAS ALL LINKED – TRY TO KEEP SHORTER – POSSIBLY JUST “ACCUSED OF NOT LINKING”
    Andy Carvin, of NPR, Carvin describes the media
    hat has historically been the basic role of journalists and this fact hasn’t changed at all with the times. MISSING COMMA
    One thing that has changed over time is the amount of information available. Ernie Smith, editor of ShortFormBlog sees journalists as tour guides here to help the public navigate through all this information. Sternberg says “Curators help navigate readers through the vast ocean of content, and while doing so, create a following based on several factors: trust, taste and tools.” – IT IS NOT CLEAR WHERE THIS QUOTE COMES FROM – LINK TO SHORTFORM JUST TAKES ME TO BLOG – NOT SPECIFIC ARTICLE

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