Building Journalism With Community Starts With Building Trust

In early 2015 I wrote a post about why journalists should focus on building the future of news with communities, not just for them. I’m following up on that post with a series of profiles of people trying to embody this community-first approach.

Profile One: Jeremy Hay and EPA Now

Jeremy Hay is a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University who has been covering local news from San Francisco’s Tenderloin district to Sonoma County for more than two decades. Before getting started in journalism Hay worked as a tenant organizer, union staff member and house cleaner in New York City.

Through his fellowship Hay is exploring how journalists can build on “the native talents in low-income communities to create their own source of media coverage” But when I sat down with Hay in San Mateo, California, last month it was clear that he didn’t want to just build on those talents, he wanted to build with the community. His first project is designing a local news service with residents in East Palo Alto, but Hay hopes he can take what he learns there and extrapolate it out to help other communities develop their own media infrastructure.

It is still early but Hay has already learned some valuable lessons about building with community, not for it.  Continue reading

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Breaking Down Breaking News To Its Atomic Elements

Today Circa released version 2.0 of its mobile-native news app. Normally I don’t write about apps, but something about Circa’s new app caught my attention. Not only have they rethought the basics — design, navigation, etc. – they also introduced a new feature focused on rethinking breaking news reporting.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing Farhad Manjoo argued that “Breaking news is broken.” However, most of the hand wringing about breaking news has focused on a rather narrow set of issues related to news accuracy and crowdsourced investigations. Other issues regarding how our communities get access to the news and information they need, and how they understand and act on that information, have received less attention.

How might reporting during breaking news need to change to help add clarity to the flood of updates, provide context, and make news more usable and actionable to people? Circa thinks it has at least part of the answer and it is rooted squarely in the company’s strategy to atomize the news and reconsider the article as the atomic element of journalism.

Continue reading

We Need a Golden Rule for Breaking News

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing one commenter called it a “watershed moment for social media” – but not in a good way. “Legions of Web sleuths cast suspicion on at least four innocent people, spread innumerable bad tips and heightened the sense of panic and paranoia,” wrote Ken Bensinger and Andrea Chang in the L.A. Times. In a similar post, Alan Mutter quipped that crowd reporting after the Boston Marathon went from critical mass to critical mess.

Recent events like Hurricane Sandy and the Boston marathon bombing have cast a harsh spotlight on the brave new world of breaking news and highlighted the critical need for better tools and techniques for verifying and making sense of the flood of information these events produce. This has all played into the ongoing debate about whether the Internet and new technology erode our standards and our trust in newsgathering.

I created my new site, Verification Junkie, because I believe the web can be a powerful tool in creating more trustworthy journalism. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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) Continue reading

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). Continue reading