In this day and age, verification is of the utmost importance, especially for journalists.
Now, you may be thinking that verification is always important. You’re not wrong, but it’s even more important right now since the press is under attack and there is much political unrest in the country.
Verification is typically defined as the process of establishing the accuracy of something, and the news media use it to make sure their stories are factually sound. Verification is also something social media users, particularly famous musicians, journalists, actors, politicians, brands, and the like, can achieve in order to show their followers that they are, indeed, who they say they are.
While verification is important for journalists, it’s also important for their readers– the every day people like you and me. As I said before the press is under attack and a part of the reason for that is that there is so much fake news that is easily accessed by the masses. In order for us to determine what is fake and what is not, it’s important that we verify the content we see on social media, just like it’s important for journalists to verify news tips they see on social media.
A number of organizations, like Storyful, CNN, and iRevolutions, use different ways to verify the information and/or stories they receive before putting them in the public eye. All three organizations that I mentioned use similar techniques, but CNN’s are the most appealing. I think this is because, according to the article, CNN’s iReport is “the most developed and active citizen journalism platform of any news organization worldwide.” I know the article is from 2012, so this is not necessarily true anymore, but just the fact that iReport is so big and widely used makes it seem like CNN has something really valuable going on. To briefly explain CNN’s vetting process for its citizen journalism, it first contacts contributors to verify facts and make sure that the story is real and that the contributor isn’t lying about his or her identity. Next, CNN further verifies the accuracy of the content by finding experts in the area who can confirm or deny its veracity. CNN also checks local media and contacts local people who are in the field. Between CNN, iRevolution, and Storyful, I think all of the possible techniques for verification are covered.
Sometimes it seems like journalists don’t really care all that much for accuracy. For instance, during breaking news they seem to want to get information out as soon as possible. This in itself isn’t a terrible thing. However, they often report inaccurate information. You see this a lot when there are crises, like mass shootings– during the Sandy Hook shooting the gunman was initially wrongly identified as Ryan Lanza, (the real perpetrator) Adam Lanza’s brother. I personally think it’s much, much more important to be accurate than it is to be first. Sure, journalists can go back and correct themselves if they need to, but every time they have to do this, they lose a little bit of their credibility. For this reason, it’s necessary for journalists to verify their information every way possible before they post or publish their content.
If you’re a journalist and you repost false content, you are liable for false dissemination. You should know not to post something that could be false. However, if you post it saying it’s false or possibly false and ask people for tips on the content to try to determine its truthfulness, I don’t think that’s false dissemination.
By the same token, if you share or retweet content, then you are insinuating that you have verified the information. I mean, if you’re a working journalist, people look to you for the truth, and they’re going to see anything you post and assume it’s also true. Typically, people trust journalists, and journalists shouldn’t do anything to jeopardize their trust because it’s precious.
Social media managers should also be careful not to publish or share false information, and, no, attribution does not make it okay for them to post incorrect information. They, too, should be held to a higher level of integrity because people are very likely going to believe what is on their social media accounts.
As I mentioned earlier, some people and brands are able to get verified accounts. Many accounts are verified because there’s a good chance someone could try to create fake accounts and impersonate public figures or brands. Verified accounts help the public learn who to follow and trust. In turn, these accounts also help journalists (and others) gain followers and spread the truth.