American Homecomings is an ambitious, year-long, web-based news project covering the wave of military veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the issues and challenges they face in transitioning from working in a combat environment to a civilian one. Led by editors at the Denver Post, the web package is hosted on hundreds of news websites that are part of MediaNews Group and the Journal Register Co., which in turn are managed by New York-based Digital First Media.
In addition to the work of talented professional journalists at the Post, Boulder Daily Camera, and other Digital First Media news properties from coast to coast, University of Colorado journalism students are contributing to the year’s worth of veteran- and military-themed news and feature coverage. Taking a role premised on “digital curation,” a CU student team is posting content to and maintaining a section of American Homecomings called “Movies, Books, and More.”
Digital curation is a relatively new term used to describe tapping into and filtering the best of what is being produced and published online about a topic or event — from traditional news sources, blogs, social-media sites like Twitter and Facebook, informational websites from official or organization websites, etc. It involves making sense of and finding the best external content to tell a story, and packaging it to be useful and informative to readers.
The students’ work is not just curation, however. Their work includes a mix of original reporting, multimedia, and photojournalism with curated content. Specifically, they’re being encouraged to use and experiment with a wide variety of digital-media tools, and to try out innovative ways to present stories. They’ll also be using social media to interact with sources in the military and military families, or publishing polls or surveys asking veterans what they think about a variety of issues.
While the student team is just getting started at this writing (the CU-Boulder campus is in between semesters and many students are on break), here are a few examples of innovative story techniques as published on AmericanHomecomings.com so far:
- A digital-curated story about personalized dolls that emotionally support children of deployed soldiers, produced using the website Storify.com.
- A series of book reviews highlighting some of the best books about or by returning veterans and combat soldier, pulling in professional and amateur reviews, plus curated video of author interviews.
- Articles using reader polls to solicit opinion.
The CU American Homecomings student team is being supervised by Digital News Test Kitchen program director Steve Outing and CU-Boulder Journalism & Mass Communications assistant professor Rick Stevens. They continue to recruit additional CU students for the project, which will last through April 2013.