Journalism v Curation (investigative curation?)

March 28, 2013

I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at the British Dental Association last week at a seminar ran by ISOK UK called “The power of social media to support knowledge sharing”.

It was refreshing to be at a social media event where the speakers had such a high standard of spoken English and there was so little jargon and gobbledegook. As happens when I’m feeling relaxed, I talked too much.

Watching a video of some young, shiny people talking about curation made me wonder about the differences between curation and journalism.

Curation is about content that is already published. Selecting things from the vast mass of digital material pumped out every day on the Internet.

Curation is a public act. Curators are visible.

One way to define journalism is “publishing things that some people don’t want you to know”. Investigative journalism.

(For the moment let’s put aside the fact that some journalism consists of rewriting press releases i.e. things that are already written and increasingly published.)

Up until now most journalism has not happened in public view: sifting through paper documents, talking to sources who can’t be revealed, getting people who have been ignored or gagged to tell their story “on the record”. There are plenty of romantic or cynical fictional views of journalists but it’s only recently that they have had digital personas and twitter profiles. Most news stories traditionally do not have by lines. Who wrote them is not deemed important. It gets in the way of reading about what happened. Most journalists are not as visible as the people their stories are about.

Investigative journalism assumes that information is power and it’s one job of journalism to break the hold of the powerful on information in the public interest.

This implies a certain set of attitudes in journalism: skeptical, combative, curious, trying to reveal things that are hidden.

How much curation is skeptical about what is being curated?

Curation feels more like an endorsement: “I like this, it’s good” rather than “you need to know about this even if it’s not good news”. Often I feel curation is more about the personality of the curator rather than the information they are curating. If it’s already public, it must be good right? I sometimes feel I’m being sold a product, not being told a truth.

How much genuinely new information have curators uncovered? How far do curators tactly endorse the status quo and the ideology of digital?

What would “investigative curation” look like?

(Just to be clear, I’m not saying journalists don’t have egos…)


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