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

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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