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How journalists can use Storyful MultiSearch

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Culling information from social media networks to enhance coverage is becoming a common practice in journalism. Case in point is how newsrooms are relying heavily on citizen journalists’ video reports to cover the current conflict in Syria.

As the number of social media platforms continues to rise, journalists find themselves needing to browse a greater number of sites and networks to get the latest info and find content they can use. This process can be time-consuming and create technical challenges, since a large number of open browser tabs can cause some browsers to crash.

Storyful, which refers to itself as a “social media newswire,” recently released a useful answer to that problem: “Storyful MultiSearch,” an open source tool which enables journalists to search multiple social media platforms in one go.

The tool comes in the form of an extension for the Google Chrome browser. When you download it, a magnifying glass logo appears on the far right corner of your browser. Typing one keyword in the search box, which pops up when you hit the magnifying glass, renders immediate results from Twitter, Twitter videos, Twitter images, Tumblr, Instagram, Storyful News, Storyful Viral and Spokeo. The results appear in separate browser tabs, which are currently limited to eight.

More than 850 users have added this extension to their browsers since it was launched in early September, said Markham Nolan, managing editor for news services at Storyful. “We've had feedback from journalists in the Wall Street Journal and Al Jazeera, to name just a few, who have said that it's been a big help,” he told IJNet.

Storyful MultiSearch was first used by the Storyful staff. The organization made it publicly available to make journalists' lives easier, Adam Thomas, Storyful's director of business development, said in a press release. "Our journalists use this tool a great deal; it saves time during the investigation of breaking news, but also aids research for longer-form journalism."

The tool itself has some limitations. One is that it doesn’t allow journalists to search Facebook. However, there is currently no way around that. “There is no practical open Facebook search website on the web,” CTO Paul Watson told IJNet. “OpenStatusSearch.com [once a useful tool for reporters] has stopped working. Opening a search on facebook.com itself doesn't return useful results for a journalist.”

Also, the tool is currently limited to one browser: Chrome.

“Porting it to other browsers is non-trivial, and we are hoping that those who want it in Firefox or Safari or Internet Explorer will tap the developer in their newsroom to fork the open source code,” Watson said.

Storyful hopes to share other tools with the journalism community soon. “We have more browser extensions we want to open source as well as other libraries and tools,” said Watson, who added that doing these kind of projects is “giving back to the community that we make use of in our commercial code.” (Storyful’s news business is built around verifying social media content by a team of journalists and researchers. Among their clients are heavyweights including the New York Times, Channel 4 News, ABC, France24, Reuters and Bloomberg.)

Storyful has also recently launched an Open Newsroom project on Google +, which allows subscribers in this group to work together to verify social media content that is circulating online.

To download Storyful Multisearch, click here. To get the source code, click here.

Natasha Tynes is a bilingual digital journalist based in Washington, D.C. She is the founder of Tynes Media Group, which offers various media solutions to clients worldwide. Previously, she worked at the International Center for Journalists where she developed and managed ICFJ's online training and Middle Eastern programs. She also worked as a reporter and editor in the Middle East for more than a decade with Al Jazeera, the Jordan Times and Arabia Online. You can read her thoughts on journalism, digital media and the Middle East on her website, follow her on Twitter or email her at ntynes (at) gmail.com.

Image CC-licensed on Flickr via ajalfaro.

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