Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Newsrooms should train community members to provide skillful, responsible breaking-news reports

With the widespread use of smart phones with cameras, newsrooms have a responsibility to train the community in verification, news literacy and eyewitness media, writes Josh Stearns, director of journalism and sustainability at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, for First Draft: "Bringing communities into the news process is a powerful way to spread journalistic values, train residents on reporting processes and foster user generated content that is more useful for newsrooms."

One source is the Breaking News Consumer's Handbook, published by On the Media. The handbook offers 11 tips—mostly basic journalism etiquette that community members might not be aware of—for covering breaking news.

Newsrooms can also lead by example. "A number of newsrooms are making public debunking a part of their work. See for example Gizmodo’s Factually and The Washington Post’s regular coverage of 'What Was Fake on The Internet This Week.' At their best, these posts don’t just point out fake photos and rumors but also explain how the authors were able to debunk them — what tools they used, what they looked for, the questions they asked."

"It is not enough to simply report accurately," Stearns writes. "Today we need newsrooms to also help debunk misinformation, especially during breaking news. And we should enlist our communities in that effort. During breaking news we turn to our communities, to social media, to piece together what is happening, to find sources and collect images and photos from the ground. We rely on them in those moments. As such, we should do everything we can to help people understand how best to help create and share more trustworthy information."

By engaging readers, newsrooms can train them to be active participants and eyewitnesses, Stearns argues. As readers learn how to take videos and photos and create social media updates more useful to newsrooms, that helps debunk misinformation and stop the spread of rumors. For readers, newsroom engagement will help them become more aware of their rights, allow them to report safely and consider journalistic integrity, while also making journalism more transparent, accountable and valuable.

"This should be a service we provide to our readers, but through collaborations with libraries, schools, local nonprofits we can reach even more people," Stearns writes. "My experience working at the intersection of journalism and communities is that people are hungry for tools and strategies to better identify trustworthy news and information and how to sort through the flood of info they face, especially around crisis, disasters and controversial issues in their communities." (Read more)

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