Citizen journalism: the need for curation and the success story of storyful

By H.W.

The first three months of 2011 haven’t exactly been quiet for global news organisations. The protests that began in Tunisia have spread all across the Arab world to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and even Syria, a place where any kind of anti-government action would have been unthinkable even a month ago. Add to this the biggest earthquake since records began in Japan, and the subsequent Tsunami which has so far claimed the lives of 11,000 people (and counting), and you have one of the most extraordinary annual quarters in the history of modern news.

It’s not only the fact that these stories are so huge, but that they are also incredibly fast-moving. As well as a lot of “business” for news organisations, this unique combination of global events has also provided opportunities for new outfits to take advantage of the current hunger for news.

Step forward Storyful, a web curation site which has this as its mission statement:

“Storyful’s golden rule is there is ALWAYS someone closer to the story. And in the last few months, we’ve worked with people at the heart of the action, capturing turning points in history in words, pictures and video.

Sometimes our sources are local journalists, amateur photographers, or filmmakers. But often the people with the best view of the action are citizens in the right place at the right time.

We believe that there’s a good chance that person is you.”

 

The storyful homepage, where you can click through to all of the day's biggest stories.

One of the most striking things about the way that events in Japan and the Middle East have played out in the media has been the prevalence of “citizen journalism” in so much of the coverage. More people than ever have the equipment (all you need is a decent camera phone) and the connectivity (a 3G phone) to record and share the events that are happening around them.

But, however good the videos and other content which citizen journalists are uploading to the net is, none of it really has an impact unless people get to watch it. That’s where Storyful comes in. Because they are not a traditional news organisation, they are able to focus 100 % on finding, and then curating the best stuff that has been posted online. And it’s not just about getting one viral video hit, and then putting their feet up for the day. Storyful tries to keep up with the story, and to gather the most important content on one news story all in one place. And that’s where it finds its niche. It is the fastest news organisation I have come across in terms of CURATING content that is already out there.

For example, if I’m following the events unfolding in Syria, I could do one of three things:

1) go to the website of a traditional news organisation, like the BBC . This would be the slowest, but most trustworthy way of getting the information I was looking for.

2) Go on twitter, and find results for Syria in realtime. If I wanted to find videos about Syria fastest, then this would be the best option. But the wealth of information and links on twitter can be overwhelming.

3) Go to Storyful and see what their latest content is. For me, this a great halfway house for people who want stories quicker than traditional news organisations can deliver them (because of the fact that they have more stringent verification procedures) and who also want someone else to do the hard work of finding the most recent popular virals on a particular subject.

I would seriously recommend going to Storyful and checking it out. It’s the best site I’ve found for keeping up with events in the Middle East, and it’s great at organising stories into different categories (e.g. Libya, Syria, Japan, Royal Wedding). The interface is really clean and simple, which makes it easy to take in the information.

If you’re not satisfied by reading their curated stories, you can also make your own. Go over to the Storyful community page, and you can start your own story, complete with tweets, youtube embeds and your own text.

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