How to Properly Aggregate David Carr’s Column on Aggregation

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[1. IDENTIFY SOURCE, AND POTENTIALLY AUTHOR (ESP. WITH COLUMNS/OPINION PIECES), EARLY ON:] In today’s New York Times, media writer David Carr [2. BRIEFLY SUMMARIZE:] writes of the Internet’s standards of “linking, summarizing and aggregating” in a column called [3. LINK:] “A Code of Conduct for Content Aggregators.” From South by Southwest in Austin come a pair of new ideas on the subject, including [4. REFINE FOCUS:] most notably, the writer Simon Dunenco’s planned Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation, which aims to codify by committee some general rules on how to write about other people’s original ideas and journalism without stripping them of credit or pageviews. Carr calls the names attached to the project “august,” and they include some Web experts as well as fancy print magazine editors, like [5. DISCLOSE, IF NECESSARY:] New York’s own [6. LINK:] Adam Moss. [7. SNARK:] If this working-group approach to a not-exactly urgent problem sounds both idealistic and a bit dull, you clearly don’t care about the future of journalism. [8. JUMP:]

The [9. OPINE GENERALLY WITH ADJECTIVES:] measured, if narrow, column, does account for this deserved bias against navel-gazing and general Web-centric cynicism [10. BLOCK QUOTE (NOT TOO MUCH):]:

O.K., you can almost hear the digerati seizing with laughter at the idea that a pew full of journalism church ladies is somehow going to do battle with the entire Internet. But Mr. Dumenco compares his effort to the editorial rules promulgated by the American Society of Magazine Editors, which have come to shape how magazines distinguish editorial from advertising. It’s an imperfect system with a fair number of outliers, but over time the magazine group devised guidelines that had significant influence and at least set standards that people could argue about.

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“This is not an anti-aggregation group, we are pro-aggregation,” Mr. Dumenco told me. “We want some simple, common-sense rules. There should be some kind of variation of the Golden Rule here, which is that you should aggregate others as you would wish to be aggregated yourself.

[11. ANALYZE:] It’s a noble goal to make sure that writers receive credit for their efforts, and are not [12. SLOPPY METAPHOR:] eaten alive and then regurgitated by summarizing behemoths like the Huffington Post, whose rabid armies target juicy information and suck out the best parts, leaving the work quickly consumable, but not easily exactly identifiable. And yet, as some online sharers and carers [13. LINK SECONDARY SOURCE:] have pointed out, it’s often legacy publications, like newspapers, that are [14. LINK INTERNALLY TO RELEVANT STORY:] the worst at including attribution.

Additionally, aggregating has largely become the responsibility of young people hoping to break into journalism. Whereas once, a would-be Woodward might’ve started out as a beat reporter at a small-town paper, the disappearance of those jobs, and the growth of the Web, have instead sent beginners to the blogging trenches, where we are working out the push and pull between reporting and analysis or original and aggregated on our own. Low-level bloggers do not seem to have been invited to the Council so far.

With the exception of a few egregious perpetrators of  [15. LINK INTERNALLY TO ANOTHER RELEVANT STORY:] “over-aggregation,” whose reputations have rightfully suffered among the Web’s influencers, the digital sphere already gets this stuff. It’s a system that gives and takes and rewards good behavior, for the most part. To put that back in the hands of so-called authorities undercuts online journalism’s self-correcting measures. As [16. LINK TERTIARY SOURCE:] Hamilton Nolan writes at Gawker, “This sort of top-down, expert-heavy, credential-credulous media structure is exactly what blogging has so brilliantly been destroying for more than a decade.”

[17. RETURN TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN QUESTION:] “We are not some tight little group of scolds,” Dumenco promises Carr. “This is a conversation that many people from all parts of the industry want to have, and this seemed like a good place to start.” [18. PITHY CONCLUSION:] But these discussions have already begun, and they’re already constructive. [19. SNARK:] Plus, the last thing the future of media needs is more panels.

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