Why has aggregation become such a dirty word for journalists today? Because many are confusing curation with aggregation and aggregation with plagiarism. In actual fact there are various ways of collating, amalgamating and making sense of news sources.
In recent years discussion of aggregation issues has skyrocketed with a particular focus on lax aggregation methods. This is essentially plagiarising the hard work of the original reporters due to a lack of proper attribution practices or even without referencing the source of the information entirely.
The daunting information overload that we experience online is just one reason to aggregate, we all do it without even realising it. To avoid this there are many steps that you can follow such as Jeff Sonderman’s 7 steps to a successful aggregation strategy.
Steve Buttry has written comprehensively and extensively on the definitions and differentiations of curation as opposed to aggregation.
Aggregation can be thought of as a large picture that involves multiple elements or stories to bring together an overarching theme, while curation highlights an original way to look at the picture and can even suggest what the picture means as a whole.
In 2012 Steve Buttry pointed out that aggregation “isn’t a new practice just because it’s a fairly new journalism term” as it has been around long before the hysteria of recent articles. The Associate Press essentially acts an aggregation service while The New York Times and Washington Post among other large news companies have used aggregation by means of collecting and reporting stories from smaller news organisations.
Buttry goes on to explain that curation is the process of adding “value through context, relationships, background or impact”, it is a matter of bringing a new view point or angle to a collective amalgamation of stories that when brought together can have a greater meaning than they do individually.
For a comprehensive look at aggregation in its various forms and functions have a look at the Nieman Journalism Lab for a detailed analysis.