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Media, Social & New Media, TV

Why can’t we all get along?

I read a blog post today on Rosenblum TV which suggests that curation is a restriction on creativity.

CBS News social experiment

In particular it rails against the notion of a new CBS show called What’s Trending news/current affairs show based – self-evidently enough – on trends in social media.

I recently blogged about the Al Jazeera experiment, welcoming its use of tools like Storify and Twitter to guide and shape debate. I think What’s Trending is attempting to do the same, experimenting with the format of TV news.

Rosenblum’s piece argues that curation – taking existing content and creating a narrative or order around it – is a restriction of creativity or a limitation on journalism.

He might have a point if all TV shows were leaping on the curation bandwagon. They’re not. We have a few experiments in an ocean of same.

What he ignores is that on a traditional TV news show, content is already curated. It’s curated by the newsdesk, journalists and editors. They ‘know’ what makes a story, they understand what the audience is interested in and the news is delivered accordingly.

News programmes work to a template, a format, and while this format is elastic – in that it can expand or retract according to the days events – e.g the Osama story – it’s still a template. It usually has a set amount of minutes to fill, a set number of stories to accommodate.

The newsteam populate this template a number of selection mechanisms which broadly break down as:

1. The News diary – advanced planned stories, scheduled events, reaction to events
2. On day news – reactive content – your crime story, accident, political brouhaha etc
3. follow-up – new angles on running stories, often as a way of getting on board a story which has been led by a competitor.

Creativity flows from the production and delivery of these stories – from the pitch/editorial meetings in the morning, right through to the final edit.

It’s not reinventing storytelling, it’s not breaking new ground. It’s performing a role to inform and educate about issues of the day – but these are pre-selected and curated by the newsteam.

So a TV show based on ‘Trending’ is at least indicative of the moment. You can’t get more current than a real-time indication of interest (local or global)

The argument that curation somehow prevents us encountering new or interesting ideas is nonsense. Afterall, we select our reading matter, TV viewing on the basis of interest, bias and preferences.

Yes we want to be informed, we want to find out something new, but it doesn’t mean I decide to swap the Guardian for the Daily Star just to get a different point of view. I read the Guardian, I listen to Radio 4 because I want to. I do these things because I enjoy them. They both fulfil the role of introducing me to new ideas and concepts.

Think about the people you follow on twitter, the links you read – its impossible to select 100 individuals who have exactly the same mindset as you. They might have similar political leanings, be broadly liberal etc, but their interests will vary enormously.

Rosenblum says what we read and see on the web should make us think, should make us uncomfortable. Yes, absolutely. But a decent website, blog, newspaper, TV programme already does this.

Finally Rosenblum equates curation with the algorithm. True in some instances. But it does’t mean curation can’t have human input.

Today for instance trending topics in the UK included Ken Clarke’s on air gaffe , the anniversary of the death of Ian Curtis, the route of the Olympic Torch,Libya and Philip Roth. Not trivial, insignificant or dull.

What makes these stories any less relevant to people than the Queen’s visit to Ireland, the head of the IMF’s perp walk or any other story featured in the national news?

Rosenblum seems to think it has to be curation or creation. Why can’t we have both?

The danger here is that we all see the world in black and white. My view is right, yours wrong. Yes TV should inform and educate, introduce us to new things. But it’s too simplistic to simply say ‘curation’ achieves none of these things. It’s too easy to dismiss something as a restriction.

Experiments and innovation should be applauded, it will be the viewer that will decide on the its relative success or failure.


2 thoughts on “Why can’t we all get along?

  1. Posted by Michael Rosenblum – original post on About.

    I am opposed to ‘curation’ because it is the very reverse of what the web is – an open platform. When the only sources of information were The BBC or The Guardian (ie, broadcast and paper) curation was necessary because there was a physical limit as to what could be published. (bandwidth and pages). With the web that limitation is gone, so why impose it for no reason? Were there ‘curation’ on the web, for example, I never would have found your blog. No tweets. Not published in The Guardian. See my point? I am all for open platform. Free presses are messy. They are supposed to be. The messier the better.

    Posted by Doobiewotsit | May 23, 2011, 6:42 pm
  2. This is my response: Again the original comment can be found on the About page.

    Thanks for the comment much appreciated.
    I take your point that the web is an open platform and that with the web there is no limitation on what could be published. Afterall without the web I couldn’t, as you say, write a blog, respond to conversations via twitter.
    It is a creative platform, but I don’t think curation is a threat to that. I would agree if curation was advocated at the expense of everything else. That certainly wasn’t the point I was trying to make. My point was that there is room for both curated and creative content. I think experiments like What’s Trending and more so Al Jazeera’s The Stream should be applauded. Mainstream TV tends to be behind the curve, too conservative, so experiments by broadcast networks – even if an online one – are to be welcomed.

    Posted by Doobiewotsit | May 23, 2011, 6:59 pm

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