Curation and Aggregation: Simplifying electronic mass media for the masses

18 Jan

Emily Burmaster – ecburm@gmail.com

The new roles in journalism are those of curators and aggregators.

With the increase of available information in this new age of technology, where methods of distributing news and information change just as rapidly as the information being sent out, there is a need for that information to be collected and presented in an easily accessible forum. Those forums include news aggregation sites like Google News and The Huffington Post, or curator sites like Tumblr blogs.

News aggregators and curators are a necessity because readers would otherwise miss out on the differing points of view from different news organizations, as well as important points from bloggers. However, issues of attribution sometimes arise as multiple articles are compiled into the aggregation.

An article on the site GigaOM addressed a recent issue with The Huffington Post and whether or not it is fair in its aggregation and attribution. The Huffington Post was accused of stealing a Miami Herald article, but according to GigaOM, The Huffington Post not only attributed its information to the original article and included links, but it also added some of its own information to the story as well. 

Does that mean that some would like to define the sheer act of aggregating as stealing? 

As noted above, aggregation is a necessity if readers are going to navigate through the plethora of information available on the internet. GigaOM notes, “…no one can agree on what over-aggregation is, or whether it even exists. If an outlet — or even another newspaper — quotes facts and includes attribution and a link, as well as more information on the topic, how is that an offense?”

Electronic media is uncharted territory, and the boundaries of aggregation are only one area currently being mapped.

Another issue that comes up with aggregation is that even with links and attribution, will readers ever visit the original news site? A Poynter. article titled “The aggregator’s dilemma: How do you fairly serve your readers & the sources you rely on?” addresses this issue.

The reporters who investigate and write an original story deserve credit for the story, but when it’s read on a site other than the original, and it’s possibly been modified, the original writer loses some of his or her credit. According to the article, including multiple sources in the aggregated article, as well as keeping a neutral voice, both help to emphasize the original articles.

Similar to aggregation is the concept of journalistic curation. In the blog “Teaching Online Journalism,” the author compares journalistic curation to museum curation.

According to the article, museum curators select which pieces to include in an exhibit, and similarly, journalistic curators review many possible articles and links and decide which fit their points and would best benefit readers. The article also emphasizes the importance of giving context to the included links. Readers should know why they are being directed to that source.

This differs from aggregation because aggregation involves taking multiple perspectives of a single current event and aggregating them into a single news article. 

It should be noted that curation involves more author discretion than aggregation does, but a curator must still follow journalistic ethics. There may be a higher degree of opinion from a curator, but all information must still be true. 

The concept of truth and trust is expanded on in the article “Why Curation is Important to the Future of Journalism” on mashable.com.

Aggregation and curation seem to be subtly different, although it can be difficult to understand that difference. An article from the Nieman Journalism Lab titled “Aggregators, curators, and indexers: There’s a difference and it matters” attempts to explain the differences, but it was still confusing. 

Whatever the subltle differences may be, the conclusion to be drawn is that information is constantly updated and revised, and it’s essential to have aggregators and curators to compile that information into a single, easily accessible platform and sort through the masses of outputted information to determine what is relevant and essential.

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One Response to “Curation and Aggregation: Simplifying electronic mass media for the masses”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers January 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    The quality of this falls under Good on the Rubric – though it fails to incorporate “the
    work or experiences of other students, scholars and experts” —
    You seem to bump along from one reading to another without a lot of synthesis — in other words give the reader a macro (bird’s-eye view) of the issue as a whole.
    Also, while well edited, I spot some weakness in a passive style with such things as “there is a need for that information to be collected and presented” (which begins with a dead construction) and “curators are a necessity”
    By the way, here is a link to reading on dead constructions: http://intelligentediting.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/zap-the-zombies-rule/

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