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June 14, 2012 / Gina D.

What should a curation team do? (A response)

If you don’t already know, Steve Buttry and Mandy Jenkins blogged on Wednesday about the creation of a curation team for Digital First Media. Rather than immediately releasing an official job description, as you would with traditional job openings, they instead asked for input into what a curation team should do, via Twitter or in comments in their respective posts. They also invited responses via blog posts. (Ahem.)

Typically, I’m all over these kinds of online conversations, hashtagging my ass off. Not yesterday. First, because Wednesdays are the days I’ve set aside to work on my ideaLab projects, so I spend them on the Esri campus, semi-out-of-reach of what’s happening in the newsrooms and other realms of our organization. It helps me focus on what I’m trying to learn and do, and is also a bit of a courtesy toward the Esri staffer who has spent his Wednesdays at my side, teaching me about some aspects of data I never really took the time to learn; showing me the ropes and some snazzy features of Esri’s fairly robust programs; and setting up meetings with other Esri personnel who have an interest in what news organizations today need — and what they want.

Consequently, I didn’t hashtag any of my tweets #dfmcuration. In fact, pretty much the only tweeting I did Wednesday was for the weekly #dfmchat, and for my weekly Esri Instagram journal of sorts.

The other reason for being off-grid in this case was that I wanted to develop a real answer on my own. I didn’t even read the full blog posts about this job until just a few hours ago, and I still haven’t yet looked at a single comment or tweet on the matter. Perhaps that’s folly, but I just felt like I needed the isolation on this answer, at least initially. (If I change my mind on anything, I’ll note it at the bottom of this post.)

I promise I’ll make up for all of that in the next couple days. And beyond.

So here’s what I came up with:

At its simplest, curation at this level is Twitter lists of valued, verified and authoritative tweeters for as many aspects of news as shades of blue in the sky: national and regional collections of everything from lawmakers to philanthropic and nonprofit organizations to weather sources; helpful resources for victims of everything from fire and flood to foreclosure and scams to domestic violence; world and national news media, and maybe even the paparazzi; sports teams and official fan sites; and everything in between — or solidly trending. Same thing on Google Plus. Same thing on Facebook. Same thing on… You get the idea.

Curation is gathering valued, verified and authoritative links to all our properties’ bonafide social media in as many social media platforms they’re utilizing — and then some.

It’s looking for opportunities to leverage social media in ways that augment Thunderdome coverage and increase reader engagement, likely through tools like Storify, VeriteCo., Delicious, blogs, Facebook pages and timelines, Google Docs; plus more I can’t think of at this late hour and some I haven’t even heard of yet.

It’s discovering new tools that aid — or even ease — the aggregation process, with bonus points for those that cater to both web and print. Or discovering new ways to achieve that same objective using “old” tools. Oh, and keeping them all handy in a shared arsenal.

It’s collecting valued, verified and authoritative data — maps, databases, spreadsheets, charts, whathaveyou — of wide relevance, significance and importance — Census data, election results, voter turnout figures, Congressional district boundaries (before and after redistricting), Olympic counts (medals, records, participating nations, etc.), foreclosure rates, fire/flood/major mayhem maps, etc. — in formats that’s readily accessible by any, or many, of our 75 properties’ websites, should they need it in a pinch or for a project.

It’s pulling together links and available authoritative source information on all of those topics and then some into centralized locations readily accessible by reporters and editors across DFM, including links and means of communication with other DFM properties.

It’s creating instructional and “best of” packages of content from across those 75 properties for distribution on Storify, Paper.li, Delicious, blogs, etc.

It’s teaching, empowering and mobilizing newsrooms across DFM to do as many of these same things as possible on the local level — local officials, agencies, restaurants, businesses, personalities, sports teams, etc. — with the goal of establishing that local newspaper as the go-to resource for anything relating to that community.

And it’s providing back-up to those organizations when national news breaks in their back yard, and curation is the last thing they have time for, but something their community greatly needs.

As I see it, a curation team at the national level would lead these charges, deploy these tactics and continue furthering the development of curation editors/teams across all DFM properties. At least, that’s my take. Eager to see what others had to say on the matter Wednesday, and to talk more about this topic in the weeks and months to come.

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