Is Curation, Journalism?

Since the year 2000, traditional newsroom staff has decreased by 40 percent among legacy media organizations like The New York Times, according to political communications author Lance Bennett. However, native digital organizations (NDO)– orgs that have only ever existed online– like Politico, Vox, HuffPost, Gawker, and Buzzfeed, have economically flourished because of their unorthodox approach to producing and spreading content.

While NDO’s don’t have the historical authority associated with legacy media, their quick adaptation to the sharp upswing in public importance of social platforms and mobile, real-time updates gave them a new edge, which users have been responding to.

Bennett identifies emerging content trends that are NDO-inspired, like blurring the boundary between report and opinion, partnering with sponsors, having a mixture of serious and lighthearted news, giving readers the power to decide what matters, making content easily sharable and correlated to site traffic, and using free content from people wanting exposure.

The last point is referring to digital curation, a verb meaning “to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, as [in] music or website content.”

Curation is the most quickly-adapting content trend because while staffers in newsrooms is declining, citizen journalism has provided reporters an endless stream of live public commentary from sources on the ground at newsworthy events, while readily available and contained within its own online community.

Since content curation is clearly dependent upon the use of social media platforms, more and more legacy news outlets are utilizing such networking sites to enhance their digital storytelling and attract readers. A NiemanLab report on the media’s use of Instagram “stories” found that the New York Times is using the feature to focus behind-the-scenes on their “visual journalistic photographers, videographers, and reporters” to complement what’s being published in the official feed, but with “a slightly more raw approach.”

Snapchat is another mobile social networking platform that is being used more and more to deliver and curate content from new organizations through the “story” function which launched in 2013 and “Discover” which launched in 2015, according to the New York Times.

“The Wall Street Journal was the first and is currently the only newspaper using Snapchat Discover to reach a younger demographic. And just for a point of reference, Buzzfeed recently disclosed that it receives 21% of its content views on Snapchat,” Muck Rack Daily reported.

Legacy media organizations following NDO’s lead to curate content through user-driven social media platforms, essentially validates curation’s place as a form of journalism and as an authoritative form of digital, visual storytelling. Journalistic curation is simply a new way to communicate effectively with readers in the new technological era.

The proliferation of social networking platforms in today’s media landscape, the rise of citizen journalism, and the ever-accelerating 24-hour news cycle has driven legacy media to follow native digital news organizations in using non-traditional content as a way to inform readers.

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