Journalistic content curation and news librarianship: differential characteristics and necessary convergence

Source: Guallar, Codina, 2018

Based on a systematic review of the literature on journalistic content curation and news librarianship, the paper puts forward a clarification of the two concepts. Profiles for each of the two disciplines are set out, together with common aspects for comparison to identify their similarities and differences. Based on the comparison, the paper argues for the convergence of the two disciplines, finding that each is vital to safeguarding the social functions performed in the press coverage of current events, including the essential function of user-generated content.

Systematic reviews; Content curation; News librarianship; Journalistic content curation; News curation; Journalism; Journalists; News librarians; Curators.

1. Introduction

This paper sets out to analyse the relationship between the concepts of journalistic content curation and news librarianship, establishing their differences and their points in common based on well-established findings in the academic literature on the two concepts. The paper argues that the two concepts correspond to two specialities or professional practices in infomediation that are distinct from one another but closely linked. As often happens in any relationship between a newly emerging concept (curation) and a concept that comes from a long-standing academic and professional tradition (librarianship), the relationship between the two is marked by fuzziness, uncertainty and misunderstanding.

Given the importance of conceptual clarification for the advancement of a discipline and the resulting impact that clarity can have on the development of professional competencies, the paper aims to delve deeply into the relationships, divergences and convergences that exist between the two concepts in order to consider the function of journalistic content curation in relation to news librarianship and journalism in general and to identify the chief implications not only for media professionals, especially journalists and media librarians or researchers, but also for media scholars and for the training of journalism students and their peers in other undergraduate communication and information degrees.

2. Method

Using a classification of research aims and methods (Thyer, 2010; Creswell, 2012; Ferran-Ferrer et al., 2017; Guallar et al., 2017), the present study may be viewed as a case of theoretical research because of its method. At the same time, it also has a qualitative orientation (Ravitch; Mittenfelner- Carl, 2015) and makes use of research techniques typical of systematic reviews (Booth; Sutton; Papaioannou, 2016).

However, while the study is theoretical in its aim (Thyer, 2010), more specifically exploratory and descriptive (Creswell, 2012), it must be added that research in the information and communication sciences often has a strong component of practical application. Because this is the intention in the present case, the aim of the study can also be regarded as applied theoretical research.

As any theoretical proposal must be underpinned by a review of the previously published literature, we have started with a systematic review (Booth; Sutton; Papaioannou, 2016) of the two key objects of study: news librarianship and content curation in journalism.

First, news librarianship is a long-standing speciality that is the subject of an extensive body of research by academics in information science and communications. As a result, the review strategy has been to select texts viewed as classics or touchstones in the field, giving special attention to studies that analyse new trends, viewpoints or future prospects for information science in the media and have appeared in the past ten years (since 2008). The selection of literature draws on the expert criteria of the paper’s authors, who have a track record in research on the subject.

Second, content curation as it applies to journalism has been given a different treatment because it is an emerging concept or speciality. In this case, therefore, the review seeks to be more thorough and comprehensive. To that end, our steps include:

  • First, carrying out searches and setting up alerts in two academic secondary sources: Scopus (Elsevier) and Google Scholar. Scopus, which has indexed roughly 18,000 academic journals since 2001, was chosen for its high degree of representation of the social sciences and its good search features, which permit users to limit queries to key words.Google Scholar was chosen because its coverage is much broader and it includes not only journals but also books and other academic materials. In addition, its alerts and suggestions have been very useful in locating a number of references.  We used the search terms listed below in English and in Spanish: “content curation” AND “journalism”; “content curator” AND “journalism”; “curation” AND “journalism”; “journalistic curation”; “curation” AND “news”; “news curation”. “curación de contenidos” AND “periodismo”; “curador de contenidos” AND “periodismo”; “curaduría de contenidos” AND “periodismo”; “curación” AND “periodismo”; “curaduría” AND “periodismo”; “curación periodística”; “curaduría periodística”; “curación” AND “noticias”; “curaduría” AND “noticias”.

As the list in Spanish shows, we have used the terms “curación” and “curaduría”, which are the two mostly commonly adopted translations of the English word “curation”.

  • Second, supplementing the academic search above with a search of professional sources, because there is a significant output on the subject in professional blogs and publications.

To monitor information, we set up alerts in the platforms of both Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts using the search terms listed above and in social media using monitoring tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. Data collection took place between September 2017 and February 2018.

To supplement the literature review, we have also analysed the content of a sample of journalistic products in which an explicit use of news librarianship or journalistic content curation was identified. The content analysis took into account the selection made by the authors in previous studies (Guallar, 2015; 2016; 2017a; 2017b). Based on the literature review and the content analysis of journalistic products, the paper proposes:

  • A conceptualization of content curation in journalism;
  • A conceptualization of the relationships between the specialities of news librarianship and journalistic content curation on the basis of an examination of a set of features or facets for analysis, which will be set out in detail below; and
  • A proposal for discussion on the implications of a convergence between journalistic content curation and news librarianship for media outlets and media professionals.

3. The bibliography on news librarianship and content curation in journalism

3.1. News librarianship

The term “news librarianship” identifies an academic or professional discipline or speciality that is well known internationally, comes from a long-standing tradition and has left a large academic footprint. The speciality is also known academically as “journalistic documentation” or “media librarianship”.

Because the speciality has a strong professional presence in the media and particularly strong numbers in television, it has been addressed extensively in the literature. As noted earlier, a thorough compilation was not viewed as necessary for the purposes of the study. Instead, the analysis focuses on a selection of relevant papers.

As an overview, it should be noted first that there are a number of classic monographs that have been widely acknowledged and used as manuals in the speciality. Examples include works by Galdón (1989; 2002), Fuentes (1995) and Moreiro-González (2000). Also, more recent examples written along the same lines are the works by Rubio-Lacoba (2007) and Schopflin (2008). Two other comprehensive studies are also of interest: the first is an analysis of academic output on the subject of news librarianship by Guallar (2003), while the second, which is by Sánchez-Vigil, Marcos- Recio and Olivera-Zaldua (2015), examines the main topics, research methods, authors and journals.

One of the foremost definitions of news librarianship comes from Codina (2000, p. 49): “set of information sciences and techniques used to manage the following aspects of information on current events: a) its production, b) an increase in its quality, c) its storage and preservation, and d) its distribution and reuse”.

Particularly important for the present study is the literature on the evolution of news librarianship in the past decade (since 2008), which is especially relevant for a traditional speciality that has recently undergone upheaval and major change.

Source: Guallar, Codina, 2018

Looking at the studies that address the developments and trends in news librarianship, several authors have analysed the changes and evolution of the speciality’s traditional functions and the relationship between news librarians and journalists in the newsrooms of media outlets (Micó-Sanz; Masip; García-Avilés, 2009; Rubio-Lacoba, 2010; Marcos- Recio; Edo, 2015).

These changes have been occurring amid a growing crisis in the print media and in the functions of news libraries from their high point in the 1990s to today’s staff cutbacks and questioning among news organizations, especially the print media (Paul, 2002; 2009). The title of the last of two cited articles by Nora Paul makes the situation perfectly clear: Elegy for the news library.

Source: Guallar, Codina, 2018

In response to the situation identified in the specialized literature and in descriptive studies of news librarians and media libraries (Marcos-Recio; Sánchez-Vigil; Serrada-Gutiérrez, 2009; Sánchez-Vigil; Marcos-Recio; Olivera-Zaldua, 2009; Guallar 2011b; Orero; Cebrián-Enrique, 2014; Meléndez-Malavé; Hirschfeld-Suárez, 2016), a variety of proposals have been put forward to bring the speciality of news librarianship up to date. The proposals include:

  • Emphasizing the creation or co-creation of news content aimed directly at the audience (and not merely as an aid or support to the work of journalists), as an avenue for the growth, specialization and increased contribution of news librarians. This is the case with so-called “news documentary products” such as the anniversaries of events, biographies, timelines, archives of feature stories and so forth, and it concerns not only the field of print and digital media (Rubio-Lacoba, 2010; Guallar, 2011a) if we are talking about the profile of the “news librarian as textual co-producer” (García-Gutiérrez; Martínez-Ávila, 2014), but also the area of audio-visual media (Giménez-Rayo; Guallar, 2014; Rubio; Guallar, 2014), although some question marks hang over the actual extent of the latter (Micó-Sanz; Masip; García-Avilés, 2009; López-de-Quintana, 2014).
  • Adapting the classic tasks of document analysis to the context of the internet and news tagging for digital media (Rubio-Lacoba, 2012);
  • Achieving a greater involvement of library and information professionals in the use of social networks as information sources and communication channels (Guallar,2012; Marcos-Recio; Edo, 2015).
  • Training newsroom users on digital technologies and document searches (Giménez-Rayo, 2012).


To read the full article:


Guallar, Javier; Codina, Lluís (2018). “Journalistic content curation and news librarianship: differential characteristics and necessary convergence”. El profesional de la información, v. 27, n. 4, pp. 778-791.

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