social media

Verification Handbook Mixes Tools, Tips and Culture for Fact-Checking

Last week Twitter and CNN announced a major partnership with the data analysis startup Dataminr to shift the way journalists use Twitter as an early alert system for breaking news. Dataminr worked with CNN to fine-tune the algorithms they use, to help close the gap “between the eyewitness wanting to be heard and the journalist who wants to listen,” according Twitter’s head of news, Vivian Schiller, in a blog post. That gap is not just one of distance or time, but also one of trust.

Dataminr says its algorithms can not only identify emerging patterns and trends, but also help journalists focus in on the most relevant and reliable information. As an example of this, The Verge’s Ben Popper points out that “Dataminr told its financial clients that the AP tweet about an explosion at the White House was false five minutes before the AP itself corrected the facts.”

This is clearly a promising tool for newsrooms, but in breaking news, it is not just the tools, it is how you use them. It is not enough to have a great verification tool if the culture inside and outside the newsroom doesn’t value accuracy above all. To that end, last week also saw the release of an important new guide to verifying digital content. The Verification Handbook is free online, and was produced by the European Journalism Centre with contributions from an all-star cast of journalists. (more…)

Introducing Verification Junkie

I am a verification junkie.

For the last three years I have been exploring and experimenting with how we can verify social media during breaking news. Today I’m launching a new site, Verification Junkie, as a growing directory of apps, tools, sites and strategies for verifying, fact checking and assessing the validity of social media and user-generated content.

Verification Junkie SlideAs breaking news moves from news bulletins to news feeds, and social media becomes an invaluable tool for citizens and journalists alike, it also presents unique challenges. In his piece, Twitter, Credibility and The Watertown Manhunt, Hong Qu argues that “Tools and processes for assessing source credibility need to catch up with ever evolving social media technology and culture.”

As Qu points out, there are two key forces we need to contend with as we think about social media and user-generated content verification: technology and culture. The new Verification Junkie site is aimed at the first half of that equation, the technology. On the site I will profile and link to useful, interesting and emerging tools and apps that citizens, journalists or newsrooms can use in their day-to-day work. The emphasis here is on the useful, concrete tools people are building to help assess the validity and accuracy of social media content – text, video and photos.

Verification Junkie is a work in progress and you can submit tips and ideas for the site via Twitter @jcstearns. (more…)

A Crash Course in Verification and Misinformation in the Wake of the Boston Bombing

Over the last two weeks I set out to read every article written about errors, misinformation, verification and accuracy in the wake of the Boston bombing media coverage.  What follows are a few thoughts and almost 40 links, organized thematically, to some of the best articles on these themes.

conflictingreportsThis is the first of a few posts as I analyze and extract key take-aways and concrete lessons from the collection of articles. As a starting point, for those who want to study media coverage of the Boston bombing as a case study of breaking news verification and errors, below is a round-up of some of the best articles. There are (many) others, and some good ones I have no doubt missed (add them to the comments section).

I don’t agree with all of these viewpoints, but together they present a well-rounded debate about these issues.

Guidelines and How To Posts:

Some of the best posts were the most concrete, editors, journalists and citizens discussing their best practices and guidelines for responsible reporting and careful verification. There is a lot of good advice contained in these posts. (For more concrete advice see my ongoing round-up of tools and resources for verifying social media content) (more…)

Verifying Social Media Content: The Best Links, Case Studies and Discussion

Since I began covering journalist arrests and press suppression in real-time via social media I have developed a healthy obsession with verification. As the tools we use to report online continue to shift, we need verification to keep up. A great example of this is how Instagram filters or Vine jump-clips might hinder efforts to verify images and video from breaking news. Below is my directory of links and resources for verifying social media content – it is a work in progress.

Update: In early 2014 the European Journalism Center released the Verification Handbook which pulls together many of the lessons from the links below. I highly recommend it as a starting place for anyone interested in these issues.

skepticalI have been collecting these links for awhile, but a recent study profiled over at Poynter inspired me to post my list here. The study  showed little consistency in how journalists approach assessing the accuracy of social media content. The links below are presented in no particular order, but are organized into three categories: How-To Guides, Case-Studies, Discussions and Studies. A note on scope: The resources below are specifically and purposefully limited to verifying social media and user generated content. General reporting accuracy is not covered in depth here.

Thanks to Steve Buttry and Craig Silverman who have also done great round-up posts in the past (linked below). (more…)

Fire, Community, and Media

On Saturday night eleven fires were set in my old neighborhood of Northampton, Massachusetts. Eight homes were burned and three cars destroyed. Two people died. I am away for the holidays and have been following these terrible events from afar, touching base with friends when possible.

As the story unfolds I find myself triangulating my grief and empathy for those affected in street names that are so familiar, streets that I walked a thousand times. Many of the houses that burned were daily landmarks where I watched the seasons play out in people’s gardens.

Not being in the area, I’ve been getting all my news about the fires online. Like many of my friends I found out about all of this through Facebook and Twitter, not through any established local news source. (more…)