Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content

Who Should do Verification?

The question of who should do verification differed from newsroom to newsroom. The model of the BBC’s UGC Hub has not been replicated on a similar scale, although there were certainly newsrooms that realized the importance of creating special desks, even if they only contained one person specifically working with UGC. These special desks were predominantly focused on content coming from Syria, and increasingly Egypt, and were frequently staffed by Arabic speakers. But again the emphasis placed on these people was about their knowledge of the location and language, and therefore their ability to discover original content and cross-reference this with local expertise. It was very rare that staff on these desks had been given specific training on verifying online content. Overall, there was a sense that all journalists should be responsible for verifying the content that they discover, in spite of very little specific training on verification (with some exceptions, notably ABC Australia) of content discovered on the social Web or sent in to newsrooms via email or upload technology. There was only one senior manager who discussed the need for training people on how to make both editorial and technical assessments of content sourced from the Internet.

And while there was agreement that skills have improved slightly—for example, more people know how to do a Google Reverse Image search or know how to identify fake Twitter accounts—there was also an acknowledgement that there is quite a lot of ignorance about ways to verify content systematically. As always with digital skills, it is impossible to know what you don’t know, and many people do not know what is possible, whether it’s the possibility of using Wolfram Alpha to check weather reports for a certain location on a specific day, the ability to check who registered a website or blog, or the information included in EXIF data. There did appear to be a trend among television journalists who often send material they discover to the online team, believing that people working in the online space have a better sense of whether something can be trusted.