Why newsrooms should train their communities in verification, news literacy, and eyewitness media

Verification Should Be a Partnership With Your Community

Josh Stearns
Jul 10, 2015 · 6 min read

If newsrooms want to help stem the spread of misinformation online and get access to better eyewitness media they should embrace community engagement.

Find more reads and resources on newsgathering, verification and eyewitness media at FirstDraftNews.com

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Via OnTheMedia.org

Lead By Example

On The Media’s Breaking News Handbook is just one example of how newsrooms can empower their communities to better assess accuracy and validity of information during breaking news. A number of newsrooms are making public debunking a part of their work. See for example Gizmodo’s Factually and the Washington Post’s regular coverage of “What Was Fake on The Internet This Week.” In this case, these newsrooms are leading by example and helping cultivate more skepticism in their readers. At their best, these posts don’t just point out fake photos and rumors but also explain how the authors were able to debunk them — what tools they used, what they looked for, the questions they asked.

It is not enough to simply report accurately, today we need newsrooms to also help debunk misinformation, especially during breaking news. And we should enlist our communities in that effort.

Why Engage Readers?

There are a range of benefits to engaging our communities and especially training our readers and our residents to be active participants and eyewitnesses:

  1. They are more likely to debunk misinformation and help slow the spread of rumors by not RTing or sharing bad information.
  2. They will be more aware of their own rights to gather and disseminate the news and will stand up for those rights.
  3. They will report safely and consider journalistic ethics.
  4. It can help streamline permission and licensing questions
  5. It makes the work of journalism more transparent, accountable and valuable.
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Increasingly the Probability of Truth

In 2013, at an event on “truth and trust” organized by the Poynter Institute, Clay Shirky argued that people are looking to adopt journalistic skills and skepticism because given the flood of information they are navigating, they have no other choice. At one time, audience trust came largely through scarcity. The abundance of news and information is cultivating a more sophisticated audience that wants to not only understand the news but also the process behind the news. “The man with one newspaper knows what the news is, the man with two is never sure,” Shirky joked. Shirky said that we should think about news today the way we think about the weather, with a probability attached to it.

When it comes to breaking news — and the future of journalism more generally — we are all in this together.

In crisis moments, when the facts are a matter of life and death, we should be glad to have more boots on the ground, and we should lead by example and when engage our communities to help us shine a spotlight on the truth.

First Draft Footnotes

We work to protect communities around the world from harmful information.

Josh Stearns

Written by

Director, Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund. Journalism and democracy of, by and for the people. Formerly: @grdodge @freepress

First Draft Footnotes

We work to protect communities from harmful information, sharing tips and resources to build resilience and improve access to accurate information.

Josh Stearns

Written by

Director, Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund. Journalism and democracy of, by and for the people. Formerly: @grdodge @freepress

First Draft Footnotes

We work to protect communities from harmful information, sharing tips and resources to build resilience and improve access to accurate information.

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