I had a discussion with a colleague who used Link Journalism and Curation Journalism simultaneously. First off—I was pleased that the two terms were even in her lexicon. Typically—these terms are NOT in any high school educator’s instructional idiolect. My excitement diminished when I recognized that she did not have any idea how these two concepts were different. Before I got too indignant (in my mind, of course) I decided to take it to the web and see what I could find about how others were interpreting these two terms.
Problems with Link Journalism
I understand that in our fast paced world, we want to get in, get out and go about our day. Link Journalism or Curation Journalism seems to do just that. The problem with Link Journalism is that it is uniquely inhuman. The voice of the journalist is gone. Readers get access to information and facts (not even the best facts out there) that explain something. They click through a read what others have written about the topic. Of course, the authors can skew the links that they provide like the Drudge Report, but it still has what I call dead eyes.
Differences between Link Journalism and Curation Journalism
Predominant definitions seem to explain Curation Journalism as a strategy that gathers fragmented pieces of information to one location, allowing readers access to more content.
Using that definition as a guiding framework, Link Journalism would definitely fit under the umbrella of Curation Journalism. It is, as I see it, the ugly step child. It is the lowest common denominator. A clear line in the sand must be drawn between the two. They are not synonymous. Curation Journalism allows the writer to still craft a story to reflect their voice. Don’t mistake voice for opinion or angle, but voice in the traditional sense of writing-the author’s tone and style toward the piece. Link journalism limits that. Curation Journalism does not.
I propose that Curation Journalism is a bit more than just gathering the pieces to offer content. To me, that is Link Journalism. Curation Journalists gather real time data from social media, news outlets, images, and weave them into a text. The text is there. The voice is there. The ‘curation’ rounds out the story and tells it. This is the essence of digital storytelling. The journalist is the crafter of the text. He cannot be replaced by a computer using fancy algorithims or a click, copy, and paste artist. The craft is the ability to build a deliverable package for readers.
Anyone can copy a few links and call it journalism, and they are accurate. They are Link Journalists. Curation, I propose, is a more advanced skill, one that has multiple layers, and has been critically packaged to provide more than data, but an experience.
Task for Journalism Educators
The question now for educators is what are the parameters for teaching students to craft a Curation story to do that? The ability to teach this effectively is the first step to defining this as a viable genre that is skill based. The difference between professional and amateur anything is that the professionals have a level of skill to do something that the amateurs lack. In traditional journalism it was simply the access to the publishing mediums, the editors, and the audiences. With all of that stripped away the defining qualities of professional journalism needs defining, needs honing, and understanding what those skills are is the first step for teachers of writers and future professional journalists.