Last month I launched a course called New Social Media Tools: intended for BBC journalists looking to expand their knowledge beyond platforms like Twitter and Facebook. It was also designed to be a forum where uses of these tools could be explored and shortcomings discussed.

You might have heard of Storify - a tool which allows you to create a narrative around social media postings and other content from the web. "Storyful" offers an almost identical tool - but one which differs in that it gives visual content more prominence in the stream.

After showing the journalists on the course how these worked, and how they were being used (both by mainstream journalists and independent curators), we discussed the potential value of using these methods to present news online at the BBC.

What was liked

- Creating narrative was quick and easy

- Both tools made social media content both coherent and accessible

- Powerful tweets on a breaking story could be incorporated into a story in a very deliberate fashion

- Storytelling felt more dynamic

- Good-quality commentary provided context, helping the reader to make sense of all the media pulled into the stream.

What was questioned

- In examples where there was no commentary between comments, pictures and videos, some journalists felt they weren't following a story but just looking at links on a page

- When should such narratives be created/curated? What types of story lent themselves to such curation?

- Do audiences appreciate/want this sort of storytelling? Is there value in it coming from the BBC?

So all of this got me thinking.

Is there any market research to show that this sort of curation is desired? Do we need curators sitting alongside our journalists in newsrooms so that in the event of a breaking news story one writes/updates while the other curates public and other media opinion?

Or is it sufficient to link to independent curators and bloggers?

Do news organisations need to rethink how their content management systems operate? (I know, a huge ask.) Why? So that, firstly, the system allows for social media content to be embedded in the story as the journalist sees fit. And, secondly, (in order to speed up the process) so the CMS can help search social media platforms for key terms/hashtags related to a story.

Or would it be better/easier to embed such third-party curation platforms and thus collaborate?

Can curation increase creativity?

It probably won't surprise you to learn that the web curation discussion is 'hot' and ongoing. Which is why, instead of future gazing, I've kept the focus of this blog tightly on the experiments and lessons we are learning here at the College.

Rather ironically, this decision has also been informed by the curation process I've been involved in while researching this piece!

I post my reading material on a curation site called I post prior to the blog I'm working on, mentioning it in the post as well as tweeting about it. I then continue to update it after the blog has been published.

Having found and been directed to such great material on this subject, I didn't see the point of regurgitating ideas on those on here just because I had a platform.

So does this mean the curation process for a journalist, whereby you have to share your research as you go, can make room for more creative and discerning journalism? Something, I think it is fair to say, is much needed in our time-pressed world.

Final note: I regularly test new web tools that I think will be useful to journalists. I'm currently testing a multimedia storytelling platform called Projeqt and a web annotating tool called Scrible. Do share any new tools you've found or, if you're interested in following what tools I'm looking at, head to my blog.


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