Aug 2, 2010

"Curation" feels a lot like reporting

Before the Internet, information flowed by word of mouth, through phone calls and memos, in books and by telegraph, in closing arguments and on TV. The job of a reporter was to sift through the information being generated by people with the power to affect other people's lives and to distill it into stories that explained what people were doing and why it mattered. Obviously, there are other types of reporting - travel, sports, etc., that are less concerned with the halls of power, but the idea of distilling information remains the same: a tour of Tuscany in 5,000 words or a recap of last night's double-header baseball game.

Even as reporters distilled the information they got from their notes, editors - especially crabby ones - worked to distill it further, whether through better story organization or by cutting extraneous information that didn't serve the narrative (or fit the page). Editors also curated the pages of their publications or contents of broadcasts by deciding which news mattered, which fit that day, what was the story to play first and which one needed to be held for more reporting.

Which is why I don't agree with the statement in a recent Newspaper Death Watch post about the revolution that is curation. Here's what Paul Gillin writes:

All of a sudden, “curation” is one of the hottest words in the Web 2.0 world. That’s because it’s an idea that addresses a problem humans have never confronted before: too much information. In the process, it’s creating some compelling new ways to derive value from content.
 Never confronted? The basic function of the brain is to curate information to make sense of what's going on around us. It's an idea that we've confronted from the start, although the Internet does demand that we develop new methods for curating information to ensure the important stuff isn't lost in a sea of inanity. Indeed, good curation by good curators (good reporting?) might find stories we'd never be exposed to had the Internet not offered us the glimpse.

Gillin's post goes on to talk about a search tool he's invested in that is supposed to make online curating easier.


Anonymous said...

I agree completely. In fact, the human mind spends more time filtering out information from the environment than it does engaging with it. We would be overwhelmed without this. Nothing new with that concept.

Anonymous said...

Everybody wants to be a curator and not a creator. Creators cost money. Curators just steal that money from creators. Simple math.