8 Reasons journalists need a curation system

The growth of life streams means that “those who can filter out what’s important will matter more,” according to web strategist Jeremiah Owyang. CUNY Professor Jeff Jarvis’ makes a similar point that “every minute of a journalist’s time will need to go to adding unique value to the news ecosystem: reporting, curating, organizing.”

Journalists who hope to use curation to comprehensively cover stories and beats need an infrastructure conducive to that process. Today’s hodgepodge of widgets strapped onto today’s content management system aren’t enough.

Here are 8 reasons journalists as curators need a system to facilitate curation, based on Matt Cohen’s definition of curation as “the aggregation, filtering, and prioritization of content for a targeted audience, with context and editorial voice.”

  1. Links aren’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, link journalism is an integral part of curation, but why link to a video that can be embedded into a story? Why link to a stream of tweets when it can be contextually placed within an article ? A curation system should support easy embedding of external content.
  2. Canned widgets won’t suffice. When one person’s live tweets are relevant to a story, you might be able to embed one of Twitter’s default widgets, but what about a conversation? What about a filtered search? You can turn to third-party solutions, but then the story is dependent on those systems. A holistic curation system should include tools to embed content in a way that it makes sense for storytelling, not just the way the content-provider created a widget.
  3. Copyrights must be respected. Do you need permission to use that Flickr-published photo in your story? What about that song you found on Myspace? Possibly maybe, probably not. A good curation system should detect the publishing rights attached to content or, better yet, provide search functions that search only content that may be reproduced with the owners’ permission.
  4. Link-sourcing helps readers dig. Curating expert analysis and facts from online sources is important to a story, but linking to those sources gives readers an easy way to dive in deeper to learn more or decide how much they trust the source. And it isn’t just about blogs. A curation system needs to unobtrusively link to every blogger, videographer, photographer and microblogger whose content is used.
  5. Embedding code is just plain risky. There are good reasons some content management systems don’t allow the use of raw HTML or Javascript in a story. A malformed HTML tag can make a web page go blank. Seemingly harmless scripts can contain malicious code. A curation system needs to support embedding without raw coding, and has to be easily extensible, so that the next big video platform will be supported.
  6. Consistency is good web design. I’ve visited to many sites that present stories that sometimes have playable audio and video right in the middle of a story, sometimes in a right-hand column. Sometimes I have to click on a link to watch video on a separate page altogether. A good curation system enforces a consistency in across embeddable media.
  7. Journalists need to curate social sources. As more facts and rumors stream from social media and their networks, journalists need to monitor and pull from those sources. Although there are external tools to find information, there are very few tools built specifically for journalists to find, investigate and verify that data. A good curation system should provide tools to make that facilitate and document that process.
  8. Chrome OS: Google recently announced that they are developing an operating system “for people who live on the web.” Google accurately notes that modern systems “were designed in an era where there was no web.” Likewise, modern content management systems were built before the idea of journalist as curator. Sometimes, new ideas need new systems. This is one of those times.

Of course, not all stories need curation beyond a basic set of related links, but journalists need a system that supports aggregation, filtering and prioritization of outside media for those stories that require that kind of curation.

For a living, growing collection of links about curation, visit my Delicious bookmarks of pages tagged “curation.”

5 thoughts on “8 Reasons journalists need a curation system

  1. OK, so #5 has me confused. Are you advising news organizations to stop embedding third-party widgets powered by javascript on their sites and in their stories?

    And of course, I want to roll back to #1 for a second and recommend using Publish2 (obvious disclosure: I work there!) to create a running list of links and your commentary on them, which you can, yes, embed as a widget in any story, section page, or position on your news site that your templates will allow.

    Even the most tightly-controlled content management systems usually have an "open html module" of some sort to grant local producers a tiny dose of freedom — so you should always have somewhere safe to embed a widget from a trusted source.

    • Ryan, we have some direct experience on #5: We let verified users post just about any code in comments. But, as a security measure, rank-and-file cannot, lest they muck up a page or insert malicious code. We enable video in those comments by asking people to post a YouTube URL (not an embed) which we parse into code.

      Not to speak for Kevin, but I suspect he's talking about allowing users to provide more than just text without opening the site up to hackery galore.

    • Mike's suspicion is correct. I'm talking about a system that will make it easy and safe to add external content without requiring reporters to use HTML. The system might actual use embeddable widgets to display that part should be hidden in the "black box" that users don't need to see.

      Yes, Publish2 is one example of a good tool that a curation system needs to support . (disclosure: Ryan helped me use Publish2 on the Orange County Register's site).

      As a frequent user of "open html modules" who is always looking for the right tools (whether the system I'm working with officially supports it), it is an important feature of any CMS. Improper use could cause problems, so I agree with Mike, access to raw code should only be given to "verified users."

  2. […] 8 Reasons journalists need a curation system – "The growth of life streams means that “those who can filter out what’s important will matter more,” according to web strategist Jeremiah Owyang. CUNY Professor Jeff Jarvis’ makes a similar point that “every minute of a journalist’s time will need to go to adding unique value to the news ecosystem: reporting, curating, organizing.” […]

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