Community management in journalism and beyond…

While researching for this blog, the terms curator and curation has popped up too frequently to ignore. The term became popularised around 2008, especially in American circles, and has often been heralded as the future of journalism.

Up until recently, its usage has largely been restricted to museums and exhibits, where curators obtain, select, cull, interpret and display items that will inform, educate or entertain the public.

It’s clear why some have drawn parallels with the work of journalists. It’s our duty to sift through and find the most reliable information and creative an accurate narrative (or context) from statements, evidence, facts and figures to present to a readership. From gossip columns to hard news, this is the backbone of journalism.

In online journalism, the best example of curating is linking and aggregation (the compiling links from various sources across the web) whereby a curator will select links that lead to the most reliable, clear and up-to-date information and will also provide an explanation of why we should care about this information (the narrative).

In one respect, news outlets have utilised linking but it’s a one-way street. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Delicious serve as a means of advertising and sharing articles.

But while some websites such as the Guardian and the Telegraph provide a plethora of links within and at the end of their articles, it’s strictly their own material. In the UK the BBC, as a mainstream news service, is rather unique in linking to many different websites and sources (local, national and otherwise).

The old-fashioned newspaper practice of ignoring the existence of other news outlets and belief that readers should automatically trust what they write is still very much alive. While once there wasn’t space on page to give such references, the great expanse of the web provides no such excuse.

While I personally don’t buy that curation is the future, I do think that bringing such principles into online journalism can have only benefit the industry.

Linking and aggregation, done well, will provide transparency and create greater trust in the material. In the fashion of science journals and academic essays, citing and linking sources we provide tangible proof and methodology behind the facts used in hard news and the assumptions made in commentaries. In an age where trust in journalism has never been lower (phone hacking scandals, political ties etc) any action to show that journalists care about responsible reporting is essential.

Also curation of this kind fulfils the aim of a community manager – to create and maintain communities. By linking to other websites and sources we increase discourse in a particular area and reciprocal linking. Also by While some traffic may inevitably be transient in nature, curation can help build up loyal communities in the long run.

In that spirit, here’s some more curating for you good folks:

Filling the gap between citizen journalism (and sometimes precarious linking) and professional journalism (largely bereft of links).

A comprehensive definition of community curation.

The argument for curation as the future of journalism.

Curation – about curation.

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