Partnering with Storyful to train social journalists

Verification is everything

If there is one thing I hope my students take away from our new social journalism MA program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, it is the ability and the instinct to verify.

And there is nobody in the business better at verifying the proliferation of information shared every day on social media than Storyful. So I’m pretty excited that we are going to partner with them to get the best possible training for our students, and they’ve agreed to offer up to three internships for our students in the coming year. (Of course, they’ll still have to go through an interview process and demonstrate their qualifications.)

For our current class, which started in January and will graduate in December, we’ve had some lessons on verification; Storyful news director Mandy Jenkins did a workshop for us this summer. But I think we can do even more going forward, including another one this fall and a beefed up curriculum next year. Storyful staff can walk students through case studies of how they checked out and sourced a tricky video or photo and make sure they know the latest techniques for spotting fakes.

Before coming to academia, I worked for Committee of Concerned Journalists, visiting newsrooms all of the country to talk about how to make their daily practices better match core values. Of course, one of our most popular modules was the one on verification, and I can almost hear the venerable journalists who were my mentors, like Bill Kovach, Gregory Favre and Tom Rosenstiel, saying at the start of each session: “this is the heart of what journalists do.”

And although this was in the early 2000s, before the rise of social media, we talked about how verification was more important than ever in an era in which journalists were no longer gatekeepers deciding what information could reach the public but rather sensemakers, trying to help people evaluate the truth of the information that has often already reached them for themselves.

As Mandy discussed with us, verification today involves scanning the social web, verifying its authenticity, attribution, location, and situational context, and then licensing the content for use. This isn’t easy, and you can’t afford to be wrong.

More info on our social journalism program and how to apply here.