The value of curation when journalism is like the air we breathe

This month’s Carnival of Journalism asks what steps can be taken to increase the number of news sources.

The question takes it cue from the Knight Foundation’s 15 recommendations on the news and information needs of communities.

One clear way for journalism schools to contribute is by having students cover the city. Our students at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism already do this, as do many other j-schools.

By doing this, j-schools are filling the gap left by shrinking newsrooms. However, this only addresses part of the issue.

There are more acts of journalism being done by more people than ever before. The problem isn’t necessarily a lack of supply, but, as Clay Shirky puts it, filter failure.

The challenge is not just to increase the number of news sources, but to help communities navigate news and information that is networked and distributed.

Andy Carvin of NPR demonstrated the value in applying a journalistic lens to curating information flows on social media about the protests in Tunisia and Egypt.

Such an approach recognises that journalism has become ambient. As I wrote in a recent paper:

Journalism, which was once difficult and expensive to produce, today surrounds us like the air we breathe. Much of it is, literally, ambient, and being produced by professionals and citizens. The challenge going forward is helping the public negotiate and regulate this flow of awareness information, facilitating the collection, transmission and understanding of news.

There is a role for journalism schools to act as news hubs, to bring together and curate information flows in their around communities.

Additionally, j-schools can develop as centres of innovation and experimentation, tapping into the resources within the university and beyond, to work on new ways to help communities find the news and information they need.

The way forward is recognising that the media has become a space shared by professional journalists and citizens and coming up with ideas that take advantage of our mixed media ecosystem.

(Photo courtesy of Kris Krug)


  • WestEdLocal says:

    Great write-up! We’re doing something very similar here at Grant MacEwan with our Journalism program in Edmonton. We started up our own hyper-local news site called Come check us out!

  • Andre Natta says:

    Great post! Journalists have always been the filters, helping us figure out just what should be important. Are we saying that we already have enough news sources and that now the tough part is helping folks navigate that maze or maybe that we need to help folks understand just how the information they’re sharing can be used (and how to access those tools)?

  • Joe Dyck says:

    I think Wikileaks was one of the most important things that has happened since the fall of the Soviet Union, where the satellite countries all gained their freedom, thanks partly to the gentle nature of Mikhail Gorbachev. A similar thing is happening right now in the Dictatorship-lead Arab countries, where US sympathizing leaders ruled with US support. Wikileaks showed for example what the US consulate thought about Tunisia’s leader. Of course, none of that comment would ever show up in our daily newspapers without Wikileaks. Journalists try hard, but are stifled buy our corporation-owned Media and the government itself. Most of the newspapers and broadcast in North America is just fluff, with little content, unless you carefully read between the lines.

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