Why I’m curating news and why you should too

David Cohn, our host for the 2011 Renewal Tour of the Carnival of Journalism asks this month:

Considering your unique circumstances what steps can be taken to increase the number of news sources?

This wording is not chosen lightly. The question is how to increase the sources of news. This does not necessarily mean how do we increase the number of news organizations, although that can be an answer. Being a source of news and being a news organization are distinct. An individual posting a twitpic of a car crash with the hashtag #yourcity is a source of news even though he/she is not a news organization.

He’s not asking what newspapers should do or what do-gooder foundations should do or even what journalists in general should do. I could opine on what others should do easily.

No, he’s asking what I can do. That involves that personal accountability thing.

My circumstance, unique or not, are that I work at a daily newspaper, one that I hope will survive and thrive for many years to come.

One thing I have tried to do and one thing I think that large local media organizations should be doing is curating local news sources and amplifying views, opinions and “reporting” from the “people formerly known as the audience.”

What are “local news sources?” I define that broadly. It could be other media, either local competitors or traditional media from elsewhere who are covering a local issue. It could be local bloggers or grassroots news sites. It could be posts on social media networks like Facebook or Twitter. It could be content posted on media sharing sites like flickr or Youtube.

Selecting, organizing and presenting these myriad views is a powerfully effective way or introducing additional voices to a news topic, issue or story. Curation pieces are often among the most popular stories of the day at my newspaper’s websites.

Readers are reacting to what they see as news and if you are doing your job, they are engaging with your news stories, photos, videos (coverage in general).

There are a number of tools to do this ranging from just doing in you’re your story to ones that make curation much easier to do. I’ve used Publish2 and Storify, but really there is no technology tool barrier to doing effective human-powered curation.

This is an easy strategy for any news organization, but one I really don’t see being used near enough. Jay Rosen came up with the blog post “The People Formerly Known as the Audience” five years ago. Yes, five years ago.

So my challenge to myself and to others in my “unique circumstances” is to use curation more often and more effectively to add community voices to news coverage.

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