Curation Journalism

We’re about three weeks into the semester and my multimedia students have set up their Google readers, created Twitter accounts, and started their own WordPress blogs.

Time for something new.

This week, they’re going to practice curation. That is, they’re going to build a “story” out of Twitter posts, using Storify, one of several tools than can synthesize information from the Web.

There’s good reason to have my students play around with this. Social media is clearly a large part of the information landscape now, and journalists are in the middle of an experiment on how to garner its potential. Through social media, they’re cultivating sources for traditionally told stories, they’re promoting stories they’ve written, they’re networking. But social media is not a one-way pipeline, and to ignore what social media users themselves are saying is to miss a large part of the story.

One journalist who recognized the story-telling importance of social media–Twitter in particular–is Andy Carvin. He’s been curating Tweets from the streets of the Arab Spring since the beginning. He does this both by selecting and retweeting information on Twitter and using Storify. To subscribe to his Twitter feed is to get an urgent and compelling look at the view on the ground.

Of course, if you’re on social media, you could do this yourself. You could take the time to search Twitter for key terms and key people who are immersed in the events of the day. You could filter out those Tweets that don’t pertain, retweeting those that do. In fact, Twitter users do most of these activities already.

The difference comes down to the tenets of good journalism–storytelling, balance, verification are all reasons to seek out curation done by journalists. In fact, according to David Brewer, that’s what journalists have been doing for years, only without the benefit of high-tech tools.

What to watch out for:

  • Social media moves quick. You’ll need to as well, or your curated stories will be less relevant.
  • At the same time, you’ll need to be careful. Information from Tweets and other social media can be wrong. You’ll need to corroborate what you use. And since faulty information gets passed along so readily on the Web, checking it against other Tweets can be risky as your sole source of confirmation. Crowdsourcing, alas, is not infallible.
  • If you’re pulling retweets from others, be mindful that those tweets may reflect information that’s no longer up to date. Carvin explains it to Ethan Zuckerman this way: “Twitter can echo in the sense that it’s loud at first, then reverberates for a while. So something one person might’ve posted 12 hours ago gets retweeted by someone who’s just checking Twitter for the first time, causing it to propagate further.”
  • It could be tempting to just throw a bunch of parts together without giving much thought to the shape that’s created. But then, that wouldn’t be journalism, so consider what the story is that you’re trying to tell before you curate.
  • In fact, it can be easy to overdo on the assets (number of parts you bring in from the Web, Twitter, and the like). Think like museum curators who cull and arrange artwork, suggests Mindy McAdams.

After trying my own hand at Storify, one of my concerns is that curated topics can seem a bit superficially covered. That’s ok. Curation sits alongside other storytelling methods; it doesn’t replace them.

Want more on curation journalism? Check out my piece on Storify for a list of sources on the topic.

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About Nancy Kaplan-Biegel

I am the journalism program coordinator at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, as well as the adviser to The Skyline View.

24 thoughts on “Curation Journalism

  1. I could see a Storify article being good at making an idea clearer. For example, explaining a bowling technique in a single article can be confusing and complicated, but with Storify I can use words from other people as well as video to explain it in a different way.

    • True. Of course, even better might be to create that original multimedia “extra” yourself, right?

  2. When pulling tweets for my first storify I never thought to look at how old they were. I should really be careful next time I probably would prefer to have had put fresh tweets, I don’t want to add any information that is out of date.

  3. Storify is a useful tool for journalists because it allows them to compile information on a certain event into an easy to access page that contains tweets, videos, as well as links to other websites. After completing my first Storify, I looked back on what I made and noticed how much information I uncovered about my story that I did not know before

  4. I have never heard of Storify before taking this class and I have been using Twitter as my only source of social media for the past four years. I am amazed how we can weave stories from news outlets such as @CNN with first hand accounts like Andy Carvin. Carvin made one point I find a bit frustrating.
    “So something one person might’ve posted 12 hours ago gets retweeted by someone who’s just checking Twitter for the first time, causing it to propagate further.”
    I look at my feed and I notice people get worked up over retweets thinking it just happened. The key thing most people look over is the time stamp. It goes hand in hand with media literacy.

  5. Storify is pretty cool. A great way to access a few different social medias all at once and piece together a story. Reading the reactions of normal people is what keeps me coming to read more.

  6. With the rapid movement of tweets and other fast paced internet news I think Storify’s easy-to-put-together scheme makes a good way to curate all the fast paced news into a large, all incorporating story.

  7. I think the whole idea of collecting people’s tweets to tell a story is cool and interesting. I remember seeing a one about the recent plane crash at SFO. It had tweets from one of the people on the plane and pictures. It’s kind of an easier way for people to see collectively what’s going on via the word of different people.

  8. At first I didn’t understand what curation journalism was but now I get why it is so important. We live in a world where everyone loves their news to be compressed. Curating news stories through Twitter, Facebook, etc. achieves that.

  9. I have never heard of curation journalism, but now I understand how useful it can be because we live in a time where news travels fast and piecing together several updated tweets can make it easier to tell a story for people.

  10. It took me a while to grasp what curation in journalism was but when I got what the idea was about I found out that this can be an effective tool for journalists, especially for places that inaccessible.

    • You’re absolutely right about this being good for getting information from places that are inaccessible. The one thing we need to be careful of with that is do verify information. We will touch on that.

  11. Curation is something I had to consider in depth when running the social media accounts for a company I worked at. Certainly we’ve all seen the effects of bad curation on our own early social media accounts (think those hideous filtered, black box edged, instagram photos of our food circa 2012). What I think will be most interesting as I consider curating my personal social media accounts for this semester is to think of what I’m trying to accomplish with my blog- a company blog is easier because the goal is to generate interest in the product and create a community of people who use the product. I have also become much more cautious in sourcing over the last few years, and will continue to fact check stories before I post them to social media.

  12. I have never heard of Storify until now. But I agree that tweets could be wrong. The scenario I thought in my head that would support this is: 2 people fighting and take it on twitter to tell their side of the story. For all we know one if not both could be saying false information about the other, making the person reading the tweet make judgment about the person not knowing that the information is false. And just because its retweeted a lot of times doesn’t verify the information given. Its important to follow up and check if the information you acquired is true.

  13. I have never heard of Storify or curation prior to today. I believe that social media is a huge tool journalists can use today and something that catapult your career as well. With this tool, however, comes a lot of responsibility because ANYONE can post WHATEVER they want to on their social media. That is to say, journalists still have to do their part in checking their sources and verifying what they use from social media like Twitter.

    • This is a really interesting, but I’m a little confused about permission though. How do you ask permission from other twitter users about using their tweets?

      • You don’t have to. Essentially, when someone posts on Twitter, it’s as if they are standing in a town’s square shouting out what they think. Twitter is a public space.

  14. Seeing what Storify is capable at first glance, it can be useful in so many different situations. However, for a freelance journalist that works for himself/alone; I’m hard pressed to see the benefit of using it, at least for the paid version. Although, using the free version seems harmless because its free. I’d love to know more about curation and how it actually works.

  15. I’m surprised that I have never heard of Storify, it is such an interesting way of presenting the news. It’s a great way to show how people are dealing with a certain issue or topic. I feel like this is the kind of news that would be popular with the younger generation who loves using social media.

  16. I never realized how much work goes into blogging. I have so much respect and appreciation for people who are able to update their blogs on a daily basis. Despite having the best intentions of how I would update my blog weekly and have weekly themes, I’ve been finding myself slacking in that department. And with two weeks left in the semester, it’s going to be that much more difficult but I definitely have a vision for it.

    As far as Storify goes, I think it’s a great tool! It’s really cool to be able to tell a story without the “traditional” method of journalism. You don’t have to have blocks of text presented in the form of an article to get your point across. I like how you can integrate other people’s tweets into the story that agree/disagree with your point. It’s also useful to be able to utilize someone’s tweet because it allows you to express opinions that you may not have expressed previously.

    And I also agree with Greg’s comment about how Storify could be used to present news to a younger audience that does not use traditional methods to get their news. However, it is imperative to make sure that the news you’re presenting is 100% accurate seeing as people will tweet all kinds of stuff, whether it’s true or not.

  17. Storify seems to be a pretty good tool for gauging reactions after an event has happened, or for presenting some types of fairly complicated stories into a simpler format that is easier to see and follow.

  18. I have heard of storify before.. but was never exactly sure how it worked. I think this could really be a valuable tool for journalists. However, it is important for journalists to STILL do their fact checking of sources.

  19. Twitter is a great way to get information especially when it comes to using Storify. I usually don’t use it that much unless for research or for creating a new article based in Storify which can be useful for public reaction, history made and significant events.

  20. I have always liked the use of social media to provide more context to a story. Storify allows you to put craft a story with more people that were there. But it is hard to verify accounts as good sources

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