Tag Archives: storify

Journalism *is* curation: tips on curation tools and techniques

Curation is a relatively new term in journalism, but the practice is as old as journalism itself. Every act of journalism is an act of curation: think of how a news report or feature selects and combines elements from a range of sources (first hand sources, background facts, first or second hand colour). Not only that: every act of publishing is, too: selecting and combining different types of content to ensure a news or content ‘mix’. 

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ in his talk to employees at the Washington Post said: “People will buy a package … they will not pay for a story.” Previously that package was limited to what your staff produced, and wire copy. But as more content becomes digitised, it is possible to combine more content from a wider variety of sources in a range of media - and on any one of a number of platforms.

Curation is nothing new – but it is becoming harder.

Choosing the tools

I’ve identified at least three distinct types of curation (you may think of more):

  1. Curation as distribution or relay: this is curation at the platform level: think of Twitter accounts that relay the most useful links and tweets from elsewhere. Or Tumblr blogs that pass on the best images, video and quotes. Or UsVsTh3m.
  2. Curation as aggregation or combination: seen in linkblogging and news roundups, or galleries, or news aggregators (even creating an algorithm or filter is a journalistic act of selection).
  3. Curation as filter or distillation: this often comes in the form of the list: Buzzfeed is a master of these, distilling conversations from Reddit and complementing them with images.

Buzzfeed lists

There are also a number of ways in which the journalist adds value (again, you may think of more):

  • Through illustrating (as Buzzfeed, above, does with images to liven up highlights from a text discussion)
  • Through contextualising
  • Through verification
  • Through following up

As a journalist operating online, you are both reporter and publisher, able to curate content both at the article level and that of ‘publication’ – whether that’s a Twitter stream, a Tumblr blog, or a Flipboard magazine. Here are some suggestions for tools and techniques:
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The strikes and the rise of the liveblog

Liveblogging the strikes: Twitter's #n30 stream

Liveblogging the strikes: Twitter's #n30 stream

Today sees the UK’s biggest strike in decades as public sector workers protest against pension reforms. Most news organisations are covering the day’s events through liveblogs: that web-native format which has so quickly become the automatic choice for covering rolling news.

To illustrate just how dominant the liveblog has become take a look at the BBCChannel 4 News, The Guardian’s ‘Strikesblog‘ or The TelegraphThe Independent’s coverage is hosted on their own live.independent.co.uk subdomain while Sky have embedded their liveblog in other articles. There’s even a separate Storify liveblog for The Guardian’s Local Government section, and on Radio 5 Live you can find an example of radio reporters liveblogging.

Regional newspapers such as the Chronicle in the north east and the Essex County Standard are liveblogging the local angle; while the Huffington Post liveblog the political face-off at Prime Minister’s Question Time and the PoliticsHome blog liveblogs both. Leeds Student are liveblogging too. And it’s not just news organisations: campaigning organisation UK Uncut have their own liveblog, as do the public sector workers union UNISON and Pensions Justice (on Tumblr).

So dominant so quickly

The format has become so dominant so quickly because it satisfies both editorial and commercial demands: liveblogs are sticky – people stick around on them much longer than on traditional articles, in the same way that they tend to leave the streams of information from Twitter or Facebook on in the background of their phone, tablet or PC – or indeed, the way that they leave on 24 hour television when there are big events.

It also allows print outlets to compete in the 24-hour environment of rolling news. The updates of the liveblog are equivalent to the ‘time-filling’ of 24-hour television, with this key difference: that updates no longer come from a handful of strategically-placed reporters, but rather (when done well) hundreds of eyewitnesses, stakeholders, experts, campaigners, reporters from other news outlets, and other participants.

The results (when done badly) can be more noise than signal – incoherent, disconnected, fragmented. When done well, however, a good liveblog can draw clarity out of confusion, chase rumours down to facts, and draw multiple threads into something resembling a canvas.

At this early stage liveblogging is still a form finding its feet. More static than broadcast, it does not require the same cycle of repetition; more dynamic than print, it does, however, demand regular summarising.

Most importantly, it takes place within a network. The audience are not sat on their couches watching a single piece of coverage; they may be clicking between a dozen different sources; they may be present at the event itself; they may have friends or family there, sending them updates from their phone. If they are hearing about something important that you’re not addressing, you have a problem.

The list of liveblogs above demonstrates this particularly well, and it doesn’t include the biggest liveblog of all: the #n30 thread on Twitter (and as Facebook users we might also be consuming a liveblog of sorts of our friends’ updates).

More than documenting

In this situation the journalist is needed less to document what is taking place, and more to build on the documentation that is already being done: by witnesses, and by other journalists. That might mean aggregating the most important updates, or providing analysis of what they mean. It might mean enriching content by adding audio, video, maps or photography. Most importantly, it may mean verifying accounts that hold particular significance.

Liveblogging: adding value to the network

Liveblogging: adding value to the network

These were the lessons that I sought to teach my class last week when I reconstructed an event in the class and asked them to liveblog it (more in a future blog post). Without any briefing, they made predictable (and planned) mistakes: they thought they were there purely to document the event.

But now, more than ever, journalists are not there solely to document.

On a day like today you do not need to be journalist to take part in the ‘liveblog’ of #n20. If you are passionate about current events, if you are curious about news, you can be out there getting experience in dealing with those events – not just reporting them, but speaking to the people involved, recording images and audio to enrich what is in front of you, creating maps and galleries and Storify threads to aggregate the most illuminating accounts. Seeking reaction and verification to the most challenging ones.

The story is already being told by hundreds of people, some better than others. It’s a chance to create good journalism, and be better at it. I hope every aspiring journalist takes it, and the next chance, and the next one.

A Storify of what Android phones people recommended on Twitter

Yesterday I asked – on this blog, on my Facebook page, and on Twitter – what Android phones were best for a journalism student who didn’t want to buy an iPhone or BlackBerry. The blog post comments are particularly informative on the key features to look out for, while the tweets provide a good overview of who recommends what, and why. I’ve used Storify to organise those below:

View “What Android phone would you recommend to a student journalist?” on Storify