The key ingredient for the new news emporium

Mathew Ingram, an online news evangelist at the Globe and Mail in Toronto, admits that the printed word still has something over the Web that may not be changing anytime soon:

“I realize that there is far more content — from a vast diversity of sources — available on the web than there is in a newspaper. But who will filter and condense and aggregate it for me the way a newspaper does? I still haven’t found something that does the job quite as well. Perhaps someday I will, but until then I will keep reading newspapers.”

This notion is especially relevant for me now as I am creating a specialty sports news site that will be populated in part by aggregating and curating news stories. I’m largely on top of the stories in this particular niche, but there’s no way to collect everything of importance to our intended audience.

The person who’s overseeing our project asked me if there was a good existing RSS feed for this particular topic. It would certainly save time that I could spend on the stories I’ll be writing for this site. But I told him there isn’t, not for the readers we’re trying to attract. I advised it would be best to hand-dip the news, as at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, to provide the best value. This will require additional work, but I think it’s well worth it.

Especially after I noticed this morning a six-year-old story in one of my news feeds. Automating the news via keywords is a wonderful thing. It can permit a few extra winks of sleep for an online editor or curator. If one is aggregating on a high-profile subject, it makes perfect sense and adheres to the best slogan about the news that Jeff Jarvis has ever come up with: “Do what you do best, and link to the rest.”

But like fishing, this practice occasionally pulls an old rubber boot out of the water. I know I’m not saying anything new here, but I’m learning more and more each day about the necessity of employing my best news judgment — and an appropriate human touch — to presenting the news for others.

And it ought to be a relatively easy concept for print-oriented journalists to embrace since it’s an old newspaper technique gone to the Web:

“This sort of picking, choosing and assembling from a wide range of sources—curation and aggregation—is precisely what modern editors should be doing online, not just regurgitating the limited content they get from their parent organization. It leverages the strength of the editor’s skills: the ability to divine the best content, deep knowledge of a subject, and the ability to shape it into a compelling package for readers. That’s what good editors have always done: curate.”

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