Maligned gay marriage study: The far-reaching lessons for journalists

A now notorious study on same-sex marriage underscores a frequent newsroom reality: Political polling or a piece of academic research arrives and is by and large blindly passed along to readers, viewers and listeners.

If it’s seemingly headline grabbing, like the derided study on whether gay canvassers could change voters’ views in fundamental ways, the “news” value rises.

And in an era in which social media and competition make speed the frequent priority, there can be more of a chance that bad research is transmitted without much double-checking of methodology. Most newsrooms simply aren’t equipped to scrupulously double-check, and often not inclined if the origin of the research seems to be a reputable organization or individual.

“It’s a huge concern,” Bill Marimow, editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter, told me. Read more


Report: Online media are more a part of the problem of misinformation ‘than they are the solution’

On Tuesday evening, Craig Silverman will present his report for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, where he is a fellow. In the more than 100-page paper entitled “Lies, Damn Lies and Viral Content,” Silverman examines the role online media plays in spreading rumors and hoaxes. In the report, Silverman, adjunct faculty for Poynter, writes:

Too often news organizations play a major role in propagating hoaxes, false claims, questionable rumors, and dubious viral content, thereby polluting the digital information stream. Indeed some so-called viral content doesn’t become truly viral until news websites choose to highlight it. In jumping on unverified information and publishing it alongside hedging language, such as “reportedly” or “claiming,” news organizations provide falsities significant exposure while also imbuing the content with credibility.

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Amnesty International launches video verification tool, website

Amnesty International is in the verification game and that is good news for journalism.

When journalists monitor and search social networks, they’re looking to discover and verify newsworthy content. Amnesty utilizes the same networks and content — but their goal is to gather and substantiate evidence of human rights abuses.

“Verification and corroboration was always a key component of human rights research,” said Christoph Koettl, the emergency response manager in Amnesty USA’s Crisis Prevention and Response Unit. “We always had to carefully review and corroborate materials, no matter if it’s testimony, written documents or satellite imagery.”

Now they’re “confronted with a torrent of potential new evidence” thanks to social networks and cell phones. As with their counterparts in newsrooms, human rights workers and humanitarian organizations must develop and maintain skills to verify the mass of user-generated content. Read more


Mobile trends to watch in second half of 2014; plus, a newsgathering guide to Tweetdeck

Here’s our roundup of the top digital and social media stories you should know about (and from Andrew Beaujon, 10 media stories to start your day, and from Kristen Hare, a world roundup):

— At Poynter, Adam Hochberg explores in depth Gannett’s three-year CMS overhaul to “replace the existing systems and serve every Gannett newsroom – from USA Today to KHOU-TV in Houston to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.”

Frédéric Filloux runs down three mobile trends to watch for the rest of 2014, including questions about what news sites should do about the market of Android users — which is bigger than the iOS market but less lucrative.

Joanna Geary, Twitter UK’s head of news, visited the Wall Street Journal in June to share tips on how to use Tweetdeck to gather news. Read more


Don’t get hosed by fake hurricane photos this year

As far as I can tell, these photos of lightning hitting New York Wednesday night are legit.

But as the U.S. hurricane season begins this weekend with Arthur’s approach, it’s a good time to remember that hoaxers, as Craig Silverman wrote during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, “love nothing more than getting the press to share their handiwork.”

Often, a reverse image search can help you root out bogus pictures. Read more


New service will rate the authenticity of digital images

By the time an image makes its way online, it could have been opened and processed in any number of applications, passed through various hands, and been remixed and manipulated.

Today a new image hosting service, Izitru, is launching to give people new ways to certify the authenticity of a digital image. It’s also a tool that journalists can use to help verify images.

The Izitru website and iOS app can “distinguish an original JPEG file captured with a digital camera from subsequent derivations of that file that may have been changed in some way,” according to the company.

It mixes forensic image analysis with elements of crowdsourcing and human oversight. Izitru also has an API that will enable other services to integrate its technology. Read more

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Anthony De Rosa on verifying news: ‘I take in a lot and I put back out very little’

If some information is already out there, do you need to say so?

This is a conundrum faced by many journalists, though not everyone sees it as a conundrum.

For example, if media in Vietnam report news about a missing flight that is the subject of reports all over the world, what do you do?

It’s attributed to a fellow news outlet, and an established one to boot. It’s attributed to the local navy. So, what do you do?

Well, that report was false, notes Circa editor-in-chief Anthony De Rosa in “The network effect of bad information,” a piece he wrote for Medium about the benefits of waiting — of not passing along everything you see and hear. Read more


Announcing the release of the free Verification Handbook

A little over a year ago, I suggested to colleagues at Poynter that I write an e-book about verification.

It seemed to me an essential project, but also a reflection of the shift I’ve experienced in my focus for Regret the Error. When I first launched this blog as a standalone site in 2004, I was primarily finding and publishing corrections. Over time, I began to look at errors — their cause, prevalence and effect.

In the past three years, perhaps in part due to the spread of social media, smartphones and viral news, I’ve found myself more and more focused on verification.

With so much misinformation flowing fast and freely, and the ability for anyone to easily shoot, share and/or manipulate images and video, the skills of verification have never been more important. Read more

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Storyful homepage. (Storyful)

Video, verification, value: Why News Corp’s purchase of Storyful deserves your attention

I first met Storyful CEO Mark Little at the 2011 ONA Conference in Boston. We headed off to find a quiet corner so I could hear more about what exactly a “social news agency” was.

“Three words: it’s discovery, it’s verification, it’s delivery,” Little told me. “I think that’s essentially the three component parts of the new form of social news.”

I was amazed they were basically running an outsourced verification service for other news outlets.

“I see the need,” I wrote. “The question is, can verification form the basis of a viable business?”

On Friday, the News Corp announced it paid $25 million to acquire Storyful. Question answered. Read more


AP’s Navy Yard photos unrelated to shooting? D.C. man who says he was in them tells his story

Eric Levenson raises many good questions about two pictures AP pulled from the wire Monday. They purported to show bystanders helping a victim of the Navy Yard shootings. The photographer, Don Andres, told MSNBC: “I don’t know if it’s related” to the violence.

Mandy Jenkins of Digital First Media tweeted her doubts: “Still pretty confused as to how a wounded man was dragged to CVS from the Navy Yard, it’s at least 3 blocks away.” Other questions remained, as well: Why was there no sign of blood? Would people have picked up and moved a gunshot victim to the ground on a concrete street corner?

James Birdsall may hold some answers. Birdsall is a structural engineer at the Parsons Corporation, a firm with an office at 100 M St. Read more

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