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Posts Tagged ‘aggregation’

I highly recommend that you read Mindy McAdams’ post about aggregation and curation.

The post cites (and praises — thanks, Mindy!) my blog post last year on aggregation guidelines.

I said aggregators should link (Mindy did), attribute (ditto) and add value (certainly, especially with three strong examples). Excellent aggregation by Mindy. One indication that this aggregation is good journalism and not theft: I feel honored, not ripped off.

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I will be discussing ethical aggregation today at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy.

Many of the points I make will be from my earlier blog posts on aggregation and curation. Here are the slides (with Italian translations from Google). I will later add some tweets from the discussion. You can follow this and other festival sessions on the #ijf13 hashtag.

Update: I’m told Google doesn’t translate “bad rap” well. At least I prefaced my translated slides by saying that they probably would have a funny translation or two.

If you want the slides just in English, here are the slides I used for a similar discussion at the ACES conference in St. Louis earlier this month:

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I will be leading a workshop this afternoon on ethical aggregation at the conference of the American Copy Editors Society.

I will draw heavily on points from my earlier blog posts on aggregation and curation. I also commend to your attention Maria Popova’s Curator’s Code.

Here’s the definition I will use:

I also mentioned this tweet from Andy Carvin and the subsequent Storify account of how he found his answers and his book Distant Witness (which I haven’t read yet, but a participant said the episode is discussed in the book).

 

Here are my slides for the workshop:

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Some quick observations reviewing May’s traffic on my blog:

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I have added three updates, marked in bold, since posting this originally.

Aggregation has become a dirty word in much of journalism today.

Bill Keller, former editor of the New York Times, last year wrote: “There’s often a thin line between aggregation and theft.”

Patrick Pexton, Washington Post ombudsman, in an April 20 column called plagiarism “a perpetual danger in aggregated stories.”

Actually, aggregation has a long, proud and ethical history in journalism. If you’re an old-school journalist, don’t think Huffington Post or Drudge when you think about aggregation; think AP. The Associated Press is primarily largely an aggregation service*, except that it its members pay huge fees for the privilege of being aggregated (and for receiving content aggregated from other members).

The New York Times and Washington Post also have long histories of aggregation. In my years at various Midwestern newspapers, we reported big local and regional stories that attracted the attention of the Times, Post and other national news organizations. Facts we had reported first invariably turned up in the Times and Post stories without attribution or with vague attribution such as “local media reports.” I don’t say that critically. When I was a reporter and editor at various Midwestern newspapers, we did the same thing with facts we aggregated from smaller newspapers as we did regional versions of their local stories.

My point isn’t to criticize these traditional newspapers, just to note that aggregation isn’t a new practice just because it’s a fairly new journalism term. It’s one of many areas where journalism practices and standards are evolving, and I believe standards are actually improving in most cases.

After the Washington Post case, Elana Zak asked me and others if journalists needed to develop guidelines for aggregation.

I’m happy to contribute to that conversation with some thoughts about aggregation. I’ll start with discussing what I mean by aggregation (and its cousin or sibling, curation):

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The gatekeeper days of journalism were fun. But they’re over. And they weren’t as good as we remember them.

In a Facebook discussion today, Arkansas State journalism professor Jack Zibluk wrote, “By abandoning the gatekeeper role, I believe you are abandoning the profession.”

I replied: “Jack, no one abandoned the gatekeeper role. It became irrelevant when the fences blew away.”

Jack asked me to elaborate:

If journalism and journalists are no longer gatekeepers, then what ARE we? Nobody I know of has made a cohesive explanation of what our role is any more in society.

I initially begged off, saying I might blog about gatekeepers in a week or two. But another gatekeeper discussion on Jack’s Facebook wall and an exchange of private Facebook messages prompted me to blog now.

I used to be a gatekeeper, the person who decided which of the many potential stories my reporters at the Des Moines Register and Kansas City Star and Times could do would become news back in the 1980s and early 1990s. As editor of the Minot Daily News, I had the final say on every news story for our North Dakota town (and let’s be honest: beyond breaking news, a newspaper editor largely is the gatekeeper for local TV stations, too). Keeping the gate was a serious responsibility: We got to decide what was news and what wasn’t, what was front-page news, what was an inside brief and what wasn’t worth our readers’ time at all. We had to decide when a story was vetted and verified enough to make it through the gate.  (more…)

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Journalists hate few things more than buzzwords. Many of us regard ourselves as guardians of the language (as if protecting the First Amendment and being watchdogs of the powerful weren’t enough guard duties). Buzzwords feel to many purists as some kind of assault on the language.

Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton writes scornfully of my pursuit in his column today:

This is what “engagement” — the buzzword of media theorists and marketers — is all about. It’s using Twitter and Facebook to build a tribe or family of followers, even disciples, who will keep reading you.

I won’t try here to set Pexton straight on what engagement is all about, though my earlier post explaining community engagement might educate him a bit. What I want to address here is the widespread dismissal of new terminology by my fellow veteran journalists.

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