Curation: A proxy for ‘social media’?

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Curation is a hot topic and it’s a topic that is being enthusiastically adopted by many in social media — so much so that curation and social media seem to be beginning to be used interchangeably.

Take a look at this post on the BBC College of Journalism blog — Social media: what’s the difference between curation and journalism? The post takes a look at a discussion between journalists on the topic of using video from Libya:

“On Friday, ‘mainstream’ media made a bad mistake when it ran images of fighting in the Libyan town of Zawiyah – Reuters picked up the video from social media, which claimed/believed it was legitimate ‘today’ footage. Other news organisations then picked up the material and rebroadcast it until they discovered it was from fighting in exactly the same location but from the previous week.”

The discussion was between “Neal Mann, @fieldproducer, a sharp and savvy Sky journalist who mixes old-school cunning with new media nous, and Andy Carvin, @acarvin, National Public Radio’s social media strategist and arguably the doyen of new media journalism.”

Carvin has been a machine in his non-stop tweeting on the Middle East revolts and has helped to disseminate a lot of the news from the region.

Is his work “curation” or “social media?” Clearly, it’s both, and the two can overlap. What they both have in common is that you don’t need to be a journalist to be a curator or be involved in social media.

But is curation journalism?

It’s an old question and one that I’ve had to answer many times since leaving the Financial Times in 2004 to become a “journalist blogger.” Many people asked me about other blogs and asked “Is blogging journalism?” and “should journalists be licensed?”

My answer has always been as follows: “If it looks like journalism, and it consistently looks like journalism, then it most probably is journalism. We don’t need journalism to be verified by others.”

People will sometimes confuse curation and social media with journalism but that’s OK, it helps educate people about how to handle information they see on the web.

I see curation as vital part of journalism but curation on its own is not journalism. Curation is one of the things that journalists can do well because they know their subject areas well. And curation provides a valuable supporting function to a reporter’s beat.

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