Verification is becoming the name of the game when it comes to culling information from social media, especially during breaking news events.
The Verification Handbook, written by top-notch journalists and launched early this year, is an important guide for journalists who gather information from social media. The book, which was edited by Poynter’s Craig Silverman, and developed by the European Journalism Centre “prescribes best practice advice on how to verify and use information provided by the crowd, as well as actionable advice to facilitate disaster preparedness in newsrooms.” The handbook features advice on verifying videos and images, preparing for disaster coverage and which verification tools to use.
As the Arab world has fully embraced social media especially during the days of the Arab Spring, this booklet becomes very crucial for Arab journalists. Following that trend, the social technology nonprofit and Knight News Challenge winner Meedan recently launched the Arabic version of the Verification Handbook at the Seventh Annual Forum for Investigative Journalists organized by the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ).
IJNet talked with Anas Qteish, the UX Designer at Meedan, and the editor for the Arabic translation of the handbook about the release.
IJNet: Why did you see a need for translating the verification book into Arabic?
Qteish: The Internet, and social networks more specifically, make spreading rumors easier than ever. [The Arab] region doesn't have a strong culture of investigative journalism or citing sources. In many countries, the regime monopolized the narrative and was the only “credible” source of information. This resulted in some outrageous news coverage and stories on the official state-controlled wires. SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) went as far as claiming that a Syrian invented ice cream and taught the secrets to Italians in the 1800s. A basic Google search would show ice cream references in literature dating back to thousands of years.
The revolutions and conflicts that were brought by the Arab springs turned many citizens into ad hoc journalists, struggling to get their views and voices heard. Reporting rumors damages their credibility, and even established media outlets such as the BBC or AFP have fallen victim to falsified footage coming out of the region. Providing journalists and humanitarian aid workers with the tools to assess and gather accurate information online has become a critical need.
IJNet: How was the booklet received?
Qteish: It was released at ARIJ investigative journalism conference, and it was well received by over 400 Arab investigative journalists. Many people have asked for a downloadable version.
IJNet: How are you planning to market it?
Qteish: Good content does most of the marketing itself. Meedan works closely with several pioneering media partners in the region and have organized multiple trainings for citizen journalists. We plan on passing along the book to our media partners in the region, and use it in media trainings. We also hope to reach out to media collectives as well as established news outlets with the book.
Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Jan Krömer.