But Matt Thompson is definitely onto something. His newsless.org blog is a window on his year-long study of the new landscape for news. This week, in the midst of a broader discussion about election coverage, he explores a notion I am sure is very close to the center of the debate: curation and filtering.
After arguing that coverage of the recent presidential contest was the best ever, he wonders why that didn't necessarily translate into better informed citizens:
I’m a politics junkie who’s willing to devote untold hours to the task of tailoring my coverage to suit my information needs. For someone like me, the diversity and breadth of information on the Web is perfect. But what about all those folks who don’t have the time or the inclination to cull through 150+ blogs, numerous news sites, forum postings, status updates, etc.? Who’s editing that infostream for them? Who’s pulling these nuggets together, or pointing out where to look?
As far as I can tell, no one. The task of distilling this ocean of data continues to fall to the individual.2
If this year’s election coverage was truly the best ever, but we are not the best-informed we’ve ever been, that suggests a different avenue of inquiry for those concerned about the function of journalism in a democracy. Most conversations today continue to revolve around how we support journalism as the traditional infrastructure for news crumbles. My hunch is we’re slighting a conversation that might be just as significant — not how we support journalism, but how we make it more effective.
Every effort I've seen employ qualitative aggregation (my favorite is the Alaska Newsreader at ADN) has been a success, especially popular with readers. Increasingly, refining our ability to help people manage information is going to be as important as supplying information to them.