Where multimedia surrounds the field of journalism, many journalists and publishing houses have turned to reorganising online content on platforms designed to curate, not create.
The process of content curation begins with sifting through online content which includes news or feature stories, videos, images, social media posts, blogs, even podcasts and infographics and cherry-picking the best, most relevant or well presented items for your intended audience. Presenting this information in one location, on another online platform, whilst sharing links to all outward online content, is invaluable to telling a full story. The long story comes together in one place with comments linking all necessary content, making stories easy to digest and thus, feel short in comparison to the time it would take to search and read around any given subject matter.
For this reason, it is no surprise that journalists and storytellers the-like, find a curation website such as Storify, undeniably helpful in not only the telling of a story, but understanding it. Content curation, after all, is a natural part of the journalistic process along with creating new content and showcasing this to an audience. Paul Bradshaw, writer of the onlinejournalismblog.com, goes as far as to argue that:
“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).”
Articles often embed information such as images, tweets and YouTube videos to build stories – BuzzFeed, Mashable and Huff Post are old hats at following this rubric of content curated articles, be it in a listicle or content-heavy format. Many publications have their own Storify pages – Mashable and Forbes are two of these.
Xavier Damman, one of Storify’s co-founders, brands Storify “a typewriter for the social media age.” I like his analogy, because it explains why the tool is such a strong contender for innovative journalistic storytelling, which I was going to investigate further.
My own experience with content curation:
Content curation was a new venture for me, and one that I found quite revealing. By curating news, be it articles, images, social media posts, videos and my own interlinking comments, and constructing a full story of my own, I had become a journalist by proxy.
Storify enabled me to curate information from Google, Getty Images, YouTube and various social media sites, in particular, Twitter. The Twitter search tool was particularly helpful in exploring topics because not only are various videos, images and articles also shared on Twitter, as I was trying to do myself with Storify, but it was the search place for sources and first-hand experiences and comments on relevant topics. I could utilise the #hashtag search tool and, much like on Twitter, could search all the conversation circulating around that subject on the microblogging platform. Rather than reporting events with written quotations within the confines of a simple but text-heavy paragraph structure as with traditional online news articles, the site offered the opportunity to embed these posts into my story. This made it not only more visually pleasing and interactive, but it also gave the reportage a greater sense of a direct source-to-reader communication, without the intermediary (the journalist) negotiating the delivery of source experiences. In my opinion, this is one of the advantages of using content curation websites; the news speaks for itself without a great need for commentary.
I approached my Storify stories by illustrating how news breaks and spreads (see my story on the Marysville Pilchuck High School Shooting – of which the news broke on Twitter) and how news evolves over time (see my other stories which are more a beginning to end portrayal of an event and the discussion around it). Although this was enlightening to learn about events, I found that many posts on Storify were simply doing the same thing as I was; Storify seemed more of a summarising tool rather than an authoritative platform to read news. However, what I didn’t appreciate at the time, was that Storify could be used to write or even break news itself, by employing the traditional inverted pyramid style of reportage, which requires the most newsworthy piece of information to be given first and other information to appear in descending order of ‘newsiness’. This would be closer to the multimedia-heavy articles on the aforementioned sites, but remains to be explored on the content curation website. This manipulation of structure and information, however, was something that I enjoyed as a new approach to reportage and has indicated, to me, where journalism is heading in terms of its attempt to engage with audiences with shortening attention spans. Therefore, although Storify may not be the obvious place to search for news or stories, more so, it made me understand the need for content curation in every day reportage, much like on Huff Post or Mashable.
I found that a further downside to content curation tools such as Storify, however, is the vast amount of information to choose from. In other words, I had the whole internet at my fingertips. Ordinarily this would indicate a big thumbs up for content curation websites. However, the boundless and ever-growing expanse of content was almost intimidating. This is where learning the art of being selective comes in (*note, this is also hideously time-consuming – especially for a perfectionist like yours truly). I had to employ a ruthless and purposeful approach whilst collating stories which I felt uncomfortable doing when one of my intentions as a journalist would be to eliminate as much subjectivity as possible, from my reporting process. For this reason, my experimentation with content curation was distinctly revealing. The experience taught me that with any journalistic process, subjectivity is impossible to quash. Journalists will always have to utilise decision making when choosing what is newsworthy and which sources and images are the necessary leads and relevant to their piece. Therefore, subjectivity is firmly ingrained within journalism – a fact that although I am unsettled by, is one that has open my eyes to the creative opportunities that journalism can offer.
Thus, I now see journalism as more of an art form and understand the constant need for innovative platforms and experimentation with the storytelling process.