Summer 2012

Truth in the Age of Social Media

Verifying information has always been central to the work of journalists. These days the task has taken on a new level of complexity due to the volume of videos, photos, and tweets that journalists face. It’s not only the volume that presents challenges but the sophisticated tools that make it easier than ever to manipulate information. This issue of Nieman Reports looks at how the BBC, the AP, CNN, and other news organizations are addressing questions of truth and verification.

Cover Story: Truth in the Age of
Social Media
From the Curator: Facts and Friction
By Ann Marie Lipinski
A New Age for Truth (6 comments)
‘Never has it been so easy to expose an error, check a fact, crowdsource and bring technology to bear in service of verification.’
By Craig Silverman
Getting it Wrong
A sampling of mistakes, fabrications and manipulations.
By Jonathan Seitz
Detecting the Truth in Photos
As technologies to manipulate images grow ever more sophisticated, media organizations are using software to help determine authenticity.
By Santiago Lyon
Inside the BBC’s Verification Hub (6 comments)
‘What everyone wanted to know, on Twitter and in the newsroom, was this: Was the video real or fake? That is the kind of question the [User-Generated Content] Hub is there to investigate.’
By David Turner
Vetting Information
By David Turner
Finding the Wisdom in the Crowd (3 comments)
‘Journalists need to get comfortable with risk, transparency and collaboration. We need to abandon the notion that we have a monopoly on truth.’
By Mark Little
The Process of Verification (1 comment)
Vetting Citizen Journalism
‘It’s an emerging craft, one that combines an eye for a good story with a flair for connecting the dots and, above all, a human touch.’
By Lila King
Doubting Amina
The biggest hoax of 2011 fooled activists and journalists alike. One writer and free speech advocate explains why so many wanted to believe in the ‘Gay Girl in Damascus.’
By Jillian York
Challenging ‘He Said, She Said’ Journalism (4 comments)
Instead of striving for balance, a veteran Supreme Court reporter asks, ‘How about truth for a goal?’
By Linda Greenhouse
Be Careful Who You Quote (1 comment)
Some nonprofits that claim to supply expert opinions are set up by spin doctors to further corporate agendas, according to ethics watchdog Melanie Sloan.
Interviewed by Stefanie Friedhoff
Taking on the Rumor Mill
In the wake of a tornado, The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News moved swiftly to sort fact from fiction.
By Katherine K. Lee
The Story That Rocked the Clock (4 comments)
‘With so much news breaking, just posting updates to the paper’s website suddenly felt inadequate. We needed to meet readers where they were …’
By Phil Brinkman
Features
After the Shouting, Bridging the Divide (2 comments)
‘… our newsroom has made a serious effort to forge a stronger connection between the paper and Buffalo’s black community. … Not for a moment do I believe the healing is complete. But we’ve made a start.’
By Margaret Sullivan
Finding Strength in Numbers
Learning to use databases and mapping software has its rewards.
By John Diedrich
This Land Is Their Land
Bearing witness to the fallout from the exploitation of Latin America’s natural resources
By Gustavo Jononovich
Chaos Theory (1 comment)
An online pioneer challenges media companies to think differently.
By Richard Gingras
Sounding
Cover Stories
A book critic in praise of the counter-narrative
By Megan O’Grady
Books
Secrets and Lies
Investigating a famed Polish journalist
By Paul Salopek
The Fight of His Life
Ed Kennedy paid a high price for spreading news of the war’s end.
By Bill Schiller
Mr. Difficult
The personal turmoil lurking beneath the tough exterior
By Stuart Watson
Nieman Notes
Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism
Every year the Nieman Foundation awards a portfolio of prizes. The winners of three major awards were celebrated this spring.
Taylor Award for Fairness
An interview with Taylor Award Winner J. Andrew Curliss
By Jonathan Seitz
Taylor Award for Fairness (Extended Interview)
An interview with Taylor Award Winner J. Andrew Curliss
By Jonathan Seitz
J. Anthony Lukas Book Prizes
By Jan Gardner
Class Notes
Compiled by Jan Gardner
Nieman Journalism Lab
And You Thought Your Newsroom Was Innovative
Across the globe, journalists are finding new ways to deliver diverse content to an increasingly mobile audience.
By Adrienne LaFrance
Heard at Lippmann House
Out of His Comfort Zone
Buzz Bissinger on ambition, fear of failure, and the genesis of ‘Friday Night Lights’
By Buzz Bissinger