Skip to content
Jul 23 / King Kaufman

Verification: Nieman Reports’ thorough review of vital issue

Verification is one of the biggest issues in journalism—or content, or information, or whatever you want to call it—for those producing the content as well as those consuming it. That is, for journalists as well as readers, to use old-school definitions.

There is so much information coming at us from so many directions, the key questions are: Is the source of this information credible, or even real? And: Is the information itself credible and accurate? The first pair of questions goes a long way to answering the second, but not all the way.

The Summer 2012 issue of Nieman Reports from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard tackles verification in its “cover story,” with 14 stories looking at the issue from various angles.

The founder of the newsgathering platform Storyful, Mark Little, has a piece, “The checklist Storyful uses to verify online content“, that’s featured on the Nieman Lab website.

Advocating for a combination of automation and human skill to divine the truth online, Little writes, “Our engineers work side by side with our journalists” to “meet the challenges of the golden hour.” That’s that crucial period early in a breaking news story, “the time it takes social media to create either an empowering truth or an unstoppable lie.”

There are also pieces about detecting the truth in photos and vetting citizen journalism, among many other topics.

These pieces, like most that tackle serious journalistic subjects, don’t mention sports, or at least the ones I’ve read so far have not. But the Penn State story alone has provided many examples of how these issues are important to Bleacher Report writers.

The initial reports of the accusations against Jerry Sandusky, his arrest, indictment, trial and conviction, the firing of Joe Paterno, the resulting riots, Paterno’s death, leaked emails in advance of the Freeh Report, the report itself and, in the last two days, speculation about the punishment that the NCAA would hand down and then the announcement of that punishment. These have all involved online rumors and reports that were all over the spectrum of accuracy, and sportswriters have had to make sense of them on the fly.

As a companion to reading the entire Nieman Reports verification report, which I couldn’t recommend more highly, here are some B/R Blog posts on the subject: