The three skills all Journalists (and web workers need) via Meet the curators | The Economist

A TWEET that recently got quite a bit of traction (over 100 retweets), including among the SXSW audience, was this one:

@robinsloan The way to cover big news in 2011 is not “here’s what happened.” It’s “here’s how to follow the story" http://t.co/sMqGOuh

At one level, this comment just looks silly. The page at the Atlantic that it links to, which is a list of useful resources for following the Japan earthquake,doesn’t "cover” the news. The sources it links to do that. If nobody wrote “here’s what happened”, nobody would be able to say “here’s how to follow the story”. But the serious point is that “aggregation” or “curation” of other people’s coverage is becoming recognised more and more as one of the indispensable elements of journalism.

You might say that you don’t need to be a journalist to cobble together a list of links. But actually, given the huge proliferation of sources these days, you do. Being able to scan a vast range of material, determine what’s reliable, relevant and sufficiently objective, decide what will actually interest your particular readers and arrange it in a way that they can use are not trivial skills. 

Richard Sambrook, a former senior editor at the BBC, recently wrote a report for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism on how international news is changing as more and more outlets close down staff foreign bureaus to save money. He argued that what most foreign correspondents spend most of their time doing—the daily or weekly stories that keep readers up to date when there isn’t big breaking news—has become redundant because the same stories can now come from so many other sources. This, he says, forces news organisations to choose among three roles:

• coverage of breaking news and live events,

• deep specialist niche content with analysis and expertise,

• the aggregation and verification of other sources of information.

Whereas a newspaper used to rely on its on-the-ground reporter to do all of these things—to be both the primary source and primary filter of information for its particular readership—today each of these tasks can be performed by other agents as well. The decision for a news organisation, Sambrook argues, is which of them to do in-house and which to outsource. Doing the third really well requires thorough expertise in a subject; indeed, it probably requires you to be or have been a reporter on that subject yourself.

Another of the panelists at yesterday’s “Hacking the News” was Burt Herman of Storify, which implicitly acknowledges this distinction by making the aggregation part easier for anyone who wants to tell a story using other people’s reporting. Newspapers like Singapore’s Straits Times have been using it to augment their own coverage of the Japan quake. I don’t find it a very compelling experience right now: the stream of tweets, photos and other snippets feels rather disconnected. But such things are likely to become as much part of the journalist’s toolkit in the 21st century as the dog-eared address book was in the 20th.

I particularly love the three items. They are exactly what is needed on the web today in all areas of work. If you are someone who works online you should work on honing these three skills. Even if you aren’t in the direct content creation business, you should have a cursory understanding of what is going on in your field, be indispensable in one area of your field and know who the leaders in your field are. You need to know all these things to be a Lynchpin in the post-industrial workforce.

• coverage of breaking news and live events,
• deep specialist niche content with analysis and expertise,
• the aggregation and verification of other sources of information.

Posted via email from Laurent Courtines Free Online | Comment »

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