Signal: Storyful Highlights the Personal Stories that Make Facebook Unique

Facebook launches its new Signal tool for US journalists on September 17.
The tool draws together content trending on Facebook, with photos, posts
and videos curated by Storyful journalists.

By Storyful’s Peadar Grogan and JJ Worrall

More and more people each year are turning to Facebook as a source of daily news. But it’s also where they turn to tell their own stories. They share directly with friends, followers and local newsrooms.

At Storyful, we aim to amplify those personal stories, making them available to journalists around the world using Facebook Newswire. And, on Facebook Techwire, we root out comment and reaction from influential voices in tech to help drive the conversation about the technology that shapes our lives.

On August 24, more than a billion people used Facebook in a single day. That’s a lot of posts. Storyful helps to sort through those posts to surface the content worth sharing.

Facebook Newswire

Our coverage has a US focus but it also has global reach. Since its launch in early 2014, Facebook Newswire has been home to content on everything from the 2014 Gaza conflict, to Ferguson, and the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi.

But Facebook is also where Matt Minich shared video of his close encounter with a dolphin, where the Jacobs family shared video of their daughter trying to escape her own shadow, and where Alejandro Medin shared footage of the moment he realized he needed to leave town in the face of the wildfire sweeping towards Middletown, California.

Alejandro Medin via Facebook

Signal, a new tool for newsrooms launched today by Facebook, brings together trending topics and posts with curated photos, posts and videos from Facebook Newswire and Facebook Techwire. Signal is a free tool that includes Facebook and Instagram search capabilities with the aim of allowing journalists, editors and TV producers to gather news, discover content and tell stories.

Signal also allows journalists to view and compare leaderboards of real-time conversation on Facebook. Which 2016 hopeful is dominating the conversation? Which NFL team has the most buzz? Signal is where to find out.

For Storyful journalists, Facebook is a source of compelling, dramatic content around breaking news stories. And, since its launch, Facebook Newswire has allowed our journalists to create comprehensive collections of unique, native Facebook content on some of the world’s biggest stories.

Kishor Rana via Facebook

From the first tremors, to dramatic rescues days later, Facebook Newswire cataloged the devastation of the earthquake in Nepal last April. As with everything shared via Facebook Newswire, Storyful worked to confirm the authenticity of content used. Reporters can embed from Facebook Newswire with confidence.

More recently, on September 3, while working on the tragic story of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose drowned body washed ashore in Turkey after a boat carrying his family to Greece capsized, Eliza Mackintosh, a journalist at Storyful, found the Facebook profile of Alan’s aunt, Tima Kurdi. She shared a photo of Alan and his brother, Galip, who also drowned, along with the boys’ mother.

The photos from Alan’s aunt, and father Abdullah, helped to contextualize the story, reminding us that Alan Kurdi was not simply the symbol of an international humanitarian crisis, but also an individual person whose future and family were taken from him.

Similarly, the investigation by Storyful journalists Derek Bowler and Rachael Kennedy into the accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof relied heavily on leads from Facebook.

In another example, on January 7, video showing the shooting dead of French police officer Ahmed Merabet appeared on Facebook within minutes of the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The video defined the story, dominating front pages the following day.

Not all of this content would have been shared via Facebook Newswire. Videos or posts of a sensitive or shocking nature need specific editorial considerations. But the bottom line remains the same: Whether it’s dramatic content on breaking news, or personal, local stories, Facebook is a great source of news for journalists to harness.

From everyday stories to outer space, Facebook Techwire has also been a source of insights, footage and updates from across the tech industry, since it launched in late 2014. Here Storyful’s remit sweeps from the streets of Paris and Lisbon, as taxi drivers protested against Uber, to the inner Solar System and the Rosetta Mission’s exhilarating mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Alongside tracking the exploits of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, NASA and the European Space Agency missions, closer to ground level (depending on your views of those in Silicon Valley, of course), we’ve seen a number of tech influencers use Facebook as a blogging platform of sorts.

Mozilla Firefox co-creator Blake Ross, European Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, and Facebook’s own director of AI, Yann LeCun, use Facebook in this manner. Not to mention Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s powerful post on his company’s stance in the wake of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The breadth of content shared to Facebook every day shows the value of the platform to journalists. Now, with the launch of Signal, Storyful will play a bigger role in targeting newsrooms with the need-to-know “news from the noise” on Facebook.

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