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Journalists need to play curator role, not simply repeat social media

October 16, 2014 2 comments
Michelle Hassler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism professor and former Lincoln Journal Star state editor, said journalists should take more of a "curator" role.

Michelle Hassler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism professor and former Lincoln Journal Star state editor, said journalists should take more of a “curator” role.

It often seems as if the news media value being first more than they value being right.

The growth of social media and increased demands for journalists to post news quickly raises the question, “What should media’s role be?”

In coverage of the Boston bombing and the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, for example, the news media put out stories immediately, and most were completely incorrect.

The Slow Journalism Company, however, is hoping to change that.

Slow Journalism produces a magazine called Delayed Gratification, which takes stories “after the dust settles” and publishes them, according to its website. Each issue compiles stories from weeks or months earlier that tell what actually happened in a news event less the hype and bad reporting.

Michelle Hassler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor and former state editor at the Lincoln Journal Star, said that this is a good opportunity for people to see the whole event.

Hassler also said journalists need to back away from this “get-it-first mentality” and play more of a curator role.

“If journalists could step back, explain the issues and put them into context,” Hassler said, “people could understand the full scope of the story a lot better.”

A more productive method of covering the issues would be to explain the context and outline all sides, she said, and highlight what is new with those stories.

According to Slow Journalism, today’s “ultra-fast” news tells audiences what’s happening in real-time but rarely tells what it means.

“We take time to do things properly,” the Slow Journalism Company wrote on its website. “Instead of desperately trying to beat Twitter to the punch, we return to the values we all want from journalism – context, analysis and expert opinion.”

In the past 10 years, newsrooms and journalism, as a whole, have completely changed. Hassler said a journalist is now required to not only report, but also to tweet, blog, photograph, video and often self-edit. Journalists are sometimes evaluated on their speed than they are on their writing and reporting skills.

Someone will always be faster in getting the breaking news to the wide audiences. But not everyone has the training, resources and capabilities of constructing a well-researched article that explains the issues using a wide variety of sources and documents. And that’s where journalists, good editors and effective websites and print editions come in.

Yes, news media need to put a focus on their digital presence in today’s world, but they don’t need to put a focus on being first over effectively informing the public. Journalists are trained watchdogs not simply live tweeters. In order to remain relevant in today’s world, news media need to offer the public a product it can’t get via social media.

_By Natasha Rausch