Posts tagged with ‘verification’

Verification Handbook
In times of crisis our social spaces become troves of information. Misinformation too as journalists and ordinary citizens try to make heads and tails of what’s going on around them.
Enter the European Journalism Centre which just released the Verification Handbook, a collection of essays and case studies from journalists at the BBC, Storyful, ABC and other news organizations.
In their introduction to the collection, Craig Silverman and Rina Tsubaki write:

A disaster is no time to try to verify on the fly. It’s not the moment to figure out what your standards and practices are for handling crowdsourced information. Yet it’s what many - too many - newsrooms and other organizations do.
Fortunately, an abundance of tools, technologies and best practices have emerged in recent years that enable anyone to master the new art of verification, and more are being developed all the time.
It is, in the end, about achieving a harmony of two core elements: Preparing, training and coordinating people in advance and during an emergency; and providing them with access and resources to enable them to take full advantage of the ever-evolving tools that can help with verification.
The combination of the human and the technological with a sense of direction and diligence is ultimately what helps speed and perfect verification. Admittedly, however, this is a new combination, and the landscape of tools and technologies can change quickly.
This book synthesizes the best advice and experience by drawing upon the expertise of leading practitioners from some of the world’s top news organizations, NGOs, volunteer and technical communities, and even the United Nations. It offers essential guidance, tools and processes to help organizations and professionals serve the public with reliable, timely information when it matters most.

The online edition is here. ePub and PDF versions are coming soon.

Verification Handbook

In times of crisis our social spaces become troves of information. Misinformation too as journalists and ordinary citizens try to make heads and tails of what’s going on around them.

Enter the European Journalism Centre which just released the Verification Handbook, a collection of essays and case studies from journalists at the BBC, Storyful, ABC and other news organizations.

In their introduction to the collection, Craig Silverman and Rina Tsubaki write:

A disaster is no time to try to verify on the fly. It’s not the moment to figure out what your standards and practices are for handling crowdsourced information. Yet it’s what many - too many - newsrooms and other organizations do.

Fortunately, an abundance of tools, technologies and best practices have emerged in recent years that enable anyone to master the new art of verification, and more are being developed all the time.

It is, in the end, about achieving a harmony of two core elements: Preparing, training and coordinating people in advance and during an emergency; and providing them with access and resources to enable them to take full advantage of the ever-evolving tools that can help with verification.

The combination of the human and the technological with a sense of direction and diligence is ultimately what helps speed and perfect verification. Admittedly, however, this is a new combination, and the landscape of tools and technologies can change quickly.

This book synthesizes the best advice and experience by drawing upon the expertise of leading practitioners from some of the world’s top news organizations, NGOs, volunteer and technical communities, and even the United Nations. It offers essential guidance, tools and processes to help organizations and professionals serve the public with reliable, timely information when it matters most.

The online edition is here. ePub and PDF versions are coming soon.

Looking Back at 2013 in Citizen Video

Via WITNESS:

Police brutality, torture, chemical weapons attacks. Through the lenses of bystanders, witnesses, and sometimes even perpetrators, we were transported to this year’s the darkest episodes of humanity, all with the ease of a click, and the speed of an upload…

…In 2013, the Human Rights Channel curated nearly 2300 videos from 100 countries. Collectively, they reveal not only what citizen journalists filmed this year, but how that video was seen and used. Never before have YouTube videos brought egregious abuse to such influential audiences. But as the importance of citizen video becomes clear, so too do the challenges it involves, including the need for verification and the potential of misuse.

Warning: Graphic Footage

Disclosure: WITNESS’ Human Rights Channel is a partnership between WITNESS – where I run digital – and Storyful. – Michael

Meanwhile, in Syria

Over the last five days the Syrian government has driving into rebel-held Aleppo in order to reclaim the territory.

This video, from a Syrian activist, alleges to show what happened this morning (GRAPHIC).

According to Doctors Without Borders, “Airstrikes in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo have killed at least 189 people and wounded 879 people since December 15, according to local medical sources, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. Among the injured are 244 children.”

Related: Syria ‘abducting civilians to spread terror’, UN says, via the BBC.

Verifying Sources on Twitter
The New York Times’ Jennifer Preston is profiled on the Twitter Blog about how she uses the service to report the news. 

To help identify eye-witnesses at the scene, I’ll set up a search in TweetDeck or take a look at Topsy. I’ll sometimes ask my own Twitter community for help. NPR’s Andy Carvin (@ACarvin) showed us how to mobilize a community on Twitter to strengthen his reporting during the Arab Spring. My colleague, Brian Stelter (@BrianStelter), does a marvelous job on Twitter getting and verifying information for his [television] beat.
For me, the most effective way to find eyewitnesses is Twitter’s advanced search. Simply type in a keyword and location in the field that says “near this place”. The tool will produce Tweets from people who included that location in their profile. I will often type pic.twitter.com into a field to get images from that location.

Read through for the rest: Verifying Tweets when news breaks.

Verifying Sources on Twitter

The New York Times’ Jennifer Preston is profiled on the Twitter Blog about how she uses the service to report the news. 

To help identify eye-witnesses at the scene, I’ll set up a search in TweetDeck or take a look at Topsy. I’ll sometimes ask my own Twitter community for help. NPR’s Andy Carvin (@ACarvin) showed us how to mobilize a community on Twitter to strengthen his reporting during the Arab Spring. My colleague, Brian Stelter (@BrianStelter), does a marvelous job on Twitter getting and verifying information for his [television] beat.

For me, the most effective way to find eyewitnesses is Twitter’s advanced search. Simply type in a keyword and location in the field that says “near this place”. The tool will produce Tweets from people who included that location in their profile. I will often type pic.twitter.com into a field to get images from that location.

Read through for the rest: Verifying Tweets when news breaks.

Syrian Media Activists Fill News Hole
Via AFP:

Journalists in Syria have been killed by snipers, accused of spying, and kidnapped by gunmen, and with the threats growing, many say the conflict is now too dangerous to cover.
The risks have increased the challenge of reporting from the country, which was already difficult because of violence, regime visa restrictions and propaganda on both sides.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says at least 25 professional journalists and 70 citizen journalists have been killed in the conflict.
But for many reporters, the bigger fear comes from abductions, which have been on the rise in the Syria conflict.
RSF says at least 16 foreign journalists are missing in Syria, although many cases have not been made public at the request of their families.

Filling the information vacuum, in part, are Syria’s media activists.
Via The New Republic:

On a mild morning in August, one of those journalists, a 26-year-old named Wassim, was dozing on the couch of the Syrian Media Center (SMC), an amateur operation headquartered above the local barbershop. Wassim—he asked that only his first name be used—grew up in Homs and has amber eyes and the lacquered hair of a pop singer.
For the past six months, Wassim had been sleeping in SMC’s offices, alongside Lulu, a long-haired white kitten. He typically awoke at noon, ate flatbread and cheese, smoked cigarettes, and waited for videos and photographs to come in from the SMC’s 100-odd informants scattered across Syria. Most of the clips, sent by an unpaid coalition of young male activists, depicted destruction: the bloody aftermath of regime artillery attacks on schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings. Occasionally, there were shaky Handycam shots of running battles between opposition and regime forces.
From evening to dawn, Wassim edited the videos down to two or three minutes and posted them to the SMC page or its Arabic-language Twitter and Facebook feeds. If he was lucky, the BBC, Al Arabiya (a Saudi-based network), or Al Jazeera picked up the footage. But he was content to reach the many ordinary Syrians who visited the SMC page every day…

Verification of the media coming out of the country falls on newsrooms unable to get their own correspondents in. Some of it’s done through video and photo forensics. Other times it’s triangulating among trusted in-country sources to see if they can confirm an event actually happened (Andy Carvin’s excellent book, Distant Witness, about his Arab Spring coverage via social networks is a fascinating study on this).
And then there are startups like Storyful that are in the business of verifying media and information that comes across the social Web. It’s case study on validating Syria footage can be seen here.
Image: AFP reporter Sammy Ketz, taking cover from sniper in Maalula, Syria, by Anwar Amro/AFP.

Syrian Media Activists Fill News Hole

Via AFP:

Journalists in Syria have been killed by snipers, accused of spying, and kidnapped by gunmen, and with the threats growing, many say the conflict is now too dangerous to cover.

The risks have increased the challenge of reporting from the country, which was already difficult because of violence, regime visa restrictions and propaganda on both sides.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says at least 25 professional journalists and 70 citizen journalists have been killed in the conflict.

But for many reporters, the bigger fear comes from abductions, which have been on the rise in the Syria conflict.

RSF says at least 16 foreign journalists are missing in Syria, although many cases have not been made public at the request of their families.

Filling the information vacuum, in part, are Syria’s media activists.

Via The New Republic:

On a mild morning in August, one of those journalists, a 26-year-old named Wassim, was dozing on the couch of the Syrian Media Center (SMC), an amateur operation headquartered above the local barbershop. Wassim—he asked that only his first name be used—grew up in Homs and has amber eyes and the lacquered hair of a pop singer.

For the past six months, Wassim had been sleeping in SMC’s offices, alongside Lulu, a long-haired white kitten. He typically awoke at noon, ate flatbread and cheese, smoked cigarettes, and waited for videos and photographs to come in from the SMC’s 100-odd informants scattered across Syria. Most of the clips, sent by an unpaid coalition of young male activists, depicted destruction: the bloody aftermath of regime artillery attacks on schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings. Occasionally, there were shaky Handycam shots of running battles between opposition and regime forces.

From evening to dawn, Wassim edited the videos down to two or three minutes and posted them to the SMC page or its Arabic-language Twitter and Facebook feeds. If he was lucky, the BBC, Al Arabiya (a Saudi-based network), or Al Jazeera picked up the footage. But he was content to reach the many ordinary Syrians who visited the SMC page every day…

Verification of the media coming out of the country falls on newsrooms unable to get their own correspondents in. Some of it’s done through video and photo forensics. Other times it’s triangulating among trusted in-country sources to see if they can confirm an event actually happened (Andy Carvin’s excellent book, Distant Witness, about his Arab Spring coverage via social networks is a fascinating study on this).

And then there are startups like Storyful that are in the business of verifying media and information that comes across the social Web. It’s case study on validating Syria footage can be seen here.

Image: AFP reporter Sammy Ketz, taking cover from sniper in Maalula, Syria, by Anwar Amro/AFP.

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

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.

View Post
FJP: Nice to see our Jihii Jolly making Josh’s list.

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

jcstearns:

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.

View Post

FJP: Nice to see our Jihii Jolly making Josh’s list.

So Cute it Has to Be True

Last fall this 30 second video clip of a pig saving a baby goat from a pond made the rounds, getting play on Time magazine’s and Ellen DeGeneres’ Twitter feeds, and broadcast time on the Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and Fox News.

Thing is, the video’s a stunt. Via the New York Times:

[The video] was created for a new Comedy Central series, “Nathan for You,” with the help of some 20 crew members, including animal trainers, scuba divers and humane officers, and required the fabrication of a plastic track to guide the pig to the goat (which was never in jeopardy).

That a faked video had been so rapidly disseminated by unskeptical news outlets was both surprising and dispiritingly familiar to professional experts on the news media.

“It really is embarrassing for the journalists who stumbled upon this and decided to promote it or share it with their audience,” said Kelly McBride, the senior faculty for ethics, reporting and writing at the Poynter Institute. “It’s almost a form of malpractice.”

But to the creators of the video — which has since been viewed more than seven million times — the news reports are the unexpected if felicitous results of a social experiment in which they say they were not aspiring to this level of deceit.

As the Times points out, when the video was shown on NBC’s Nightly News, Brian Williams said the network was “duty-bound to pass this on.” He did offer the caveat that they weren’t quite sure whether the video was true.

Unfortunate Pro Tip: Some things are too cute to be true.

Pwning the Media, Take 02 →

In a rush to get there first, a number of media outlets reported today that Google purchased WiFi hotspot provider ICOA. Problem is, the story just isn’t true.

Via Ars Technica:

The stories were all attributed to an announcement made by Google. The only trouble is, Google didn’t make the announcement at all. And ICOA now says the story is entirely false.

So how did this story get so widely distributed? The answer is media outlets writing about it didn’t contact Google or ICOA before pumping out their stories, relying solely on a press release that wasn’t issued by either company. ICOA’s stock (worth less than a penny) soared on the fake news and then, just as suddenly, fell back down to earth. This leads to the natural assumption: someone must be profiting off this little mess…

…A story in BuzzFeed quotes [ICOA CEO George] Strouthopoulos as saying the source of the hoax is from Aruba. The Securities Exchange Commission has reportedly halted trading on ICOA’s stock at ICOA’s request.

So, current idea is that someone planted the press release on PRWeb to boost ICOA’s stock price.

More importantly though, as Ars Technical writes, “No one’s perfect. But a few minutes of digging, Google searching, e-mailing, and phone calling is usually enough to prevent false news from hitting the wire.”

Put another way, a press release isn’t a verification of fact. Contact your sources, report and then publish.

Bonus Pwnage: Here’s a story from a few months back about a man who offered himself up as an expert in all things. Even though he wasn’t, media outlets took the bait and quoted him extensively about all manner of topics.

Al Jazeera, Social Media and Covering the Arab Spring

In a few short minutes at last Spring’s Paley Center for Media’s “News at the Speed of Life” conference in Madrid, Wadah Khanfar breaks down the cultural shifts required for future newsroom to work with, embrace and verify citizen reporting.

Khanfar, former director general of al-Jazeera television, talks about how the network utilized and authenticated information coming in through social media channels during the Arab Spring.

The process wasn’t easy. Traditional journalists scoffed at the idea before being won over by the possibilities of the practice.

For Khanfar, these initial steps indicate a new role for future journalists and editors. It’s a future where news organizations need to provide context and depth to the the information being generated outside the newsroom. It’s also a process where prioritization becomes key. For example, how to see through the noise to find the important signal within.

The editor of the future must also be more qualified, says Khanfar. He or she must be an analyst, thinker and strategist, rather than what he calls “a technical journalist.” Further, newsroom hierarchies need to transform from top-down, pyramid hierarchies into flat networks of individuals empowered with responsibility and initiative.

Not bad for six minutes.

The video archive for the Paley Center for Media’s “News at the Speed of Life” conference in Madrid is available here.

Pwning the Media →

Much has been written about how we can verify sources and information in a social media age.

Not so much about how journalists — like most human creatures — are a rather lazy group and say, for instance, might skip a step or three in the process of story assignment to story publication.

Which is what Ryan Holiday took advantage of as he became an expert on pretty much all things reporters happened to need an expert on when reporting their stories.

Using Help A Reporter Out, an online network that connects reporters with expert sources, Holiday responded to pretty much anyone seeking a comment or opinion about pretty much any topic. He even had an assistant help get through his inbox deluge.

Via Forbes:

Holiday, 25 years old and based in New Orleans, mostly wanted to see if it could be done. He had been getting blogs to write what he wanted for years, and had developed a sense of how stories were put together in the internet age. He thought he could push the envelope a bit further…

…He used Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a free service that puts sources in touch with reporters. Basically, a reporter sends a query, and a slew of people wanting to comment on the story email back. He decided to respond to each and every query he got, whether or not he knew anything about the topic. He didn’t even do it himself — he enlisted an assistant to use his name in order to field as many requests as humanly possible.

He expected it to take a few months of meticulous navigation, but he found himself with more requests than he could handle in a matter of weeks. On Reuters, he became the poster child for “Generation Yikes.” On ABC News, he was one of a new breed of long-suffering insomniacs. At CBS, he made up an embarrassing office story, at MSNBC he pretended someone sneezed on him while working at Burger King. At Manitouboats.com, he offered helpful tips for winterizing your boat. The capstone came in the form of a New York Times piece on vinyl records — naturally, Holiday doesn’t collect vinyl records.

During the course of Holiday’s “experiment” he says he was fact-checked once, by email, to confirm whether he really was Ryan Holiday.

As Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out, tells Forbes, HARO is just a tool. “As a journalist, it’s always been your job to do your research and check the source, whether you find that source on the street, on Craigslist or on HARO,” he says. “If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job however you find the source.”

‘Never has it been so easy to expose an error, check a fact, crowdsource and bring technology to bear in service of verification.’

Craig Silverman, Nieman Reports. A New Age for Truth

This is all very true and we recommend reading what he has to say.

Unfortunately, we also recommend reading Jay Rosen’s recent article, If Mitt Romney were running a “post-truth” campaign, would the political press report it? 

His answer, unsurprisingly, is no, no it wouldn’t.

The Bombing of a Funeral Procession

Via the New York Times’ Watching Syria’s War Project:

Fighting has flared in the suburbs of Damascus, including in the restive town of Zamalka, where antigovernment activists said a videographer taped the funeral procession on Saturday of a man, Abdul Hadi al-Halabi, who was killed the day before. The video showed marchers carrying his body aloft and chanting, “Hey, Zamalka, long live your men and curse your traitors,” when suddenly an explosion ripped through the crowd. Its orange burst can be seen in the video, as can a man reflexively protecting his head as debris falls around him.

In its coverage, the Times does something important with its attempts at verification. Notably, it has a section called “Video in Context” and informs the reader about “What We Know” and “What We Don’t Know.”

Read through to see how they do it.

BBC Syria Coverage Uses Wrong Photo from Wrong Country and Wrong Year
The BBC published the photo above yesterday to illustrate the massacres taking place in Houla, Syria.
Problem is, the photo was taken by Marco di Lauro south of Baghdad in 2003.
Via the Telegraph:

Mr di Lauro, who works for Getty Images picture agency and has been published by newspapers across the US and Europe, said: “I went home at 3am and I opened the BBC page which had a front page story about what happened in Syria and I almost felt off from my chair.
“One of my pictures from Iraq was used by the BBC web site as a front page illustration claiming that those were the bodies of yesterday’s massacre in Syria and that the picture was sent by an activist.
“Instead the picture was taken by me and it’s on my web site, on the feature section regarding a story I did In Iraq during the war called Iraq, the aftermath of Saddam. “What I am really astonished by is that a news organization like the BBC doesn’t check the sources and it’s willing to publish any picture sent it by anyone: activist, citizen journalist or whatever. That’s all.”
He added he was less concerned about an apology or the use of image without consent, adding: “What is amazing it’s that a news organization has a picture proving a massacre that happened yesterday in Syria and instead it’s a picture that was taken in 2003 of a totally different massacre.”

FJP Pro Tip: a reverse image search could have flagged this photo in seconds. Where to do it? We use Google Image Search (instead of typing a search term in the text box select the camera icon which allows you to either enter the URL of an image or upload one) and Tineye (the process is the same).
Image: An Iraqi girl jumps over body bags containing skeletons found in the desert south of Baghdad. Marco di Lauro, 2003.

BBC Syria Coverage Uses Wrong Photo from Wrong Country and Wrong Year

The BBC published the photo above yesterday to illustrate the massacres taking place in Houla, Syria.

Problem is, the photo was taken by Marco di Lauro south of Baghdad in 2003.

Via the Telegraph:

Mr di Lauro, who works for Getty Images picture agency and has been published by newspapers across the US and Europe, said: “I went home at 3am and I opened the BBC page which had a front page story about what happened in Syria and I almost felt off from my chair.

“One of my pictures from Iraq was used by the BBC web site as a front page illustration claiming that those were the bodies of yesterday’s massacre in Syria and that the picture was sent by an activist.

“Instead the picture was taken by me and it’s on my web site, on the feature section regarding a story I did In Iraq during the war called Iraq, the aftermath of Saddam. “What I am really astonished by is that a news organization like the BBC doesn’t check the sources and it’s willing to publish any picture sent it by anyone: activist, citizen journalist or whatever. That’s all.”

He added he was less concerned about an apology or the use of image without consent, adding: “What is amazing it’s that a news organization has a picture proving a massacre that happened yesterday in Syria and instead it’s a picture that was taken in 2003 of a totally different massacre.”

FJP Pro Tip: a reverse image search could have flagged this photo in seconds. Where to do it? We use Google Image Search (instead of typing a search term in the text box select the camera icon which allows you to either enter the URL of an image or upload one) and Tineye (the process is the same).

Image: An Iraqi girl jumps over body bags containing skeletons found in the desert south of Baghdad. Marco di Lauro, 2003.

Can I reliably trust you to tell me what is going on? If the answer is yes, then I don’t care if you work out of a newsroom or out of your garage.

— Robert Hernandez, professor of new media at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. For journalism’s future, the killer app is credibility.