Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Newsonomics: On end games and end times
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
July 18, 2012, 10:30 a.m.
Reporting & Production
fail-whale-cc

From Nieman Reports: The “New Verification” means high stakes in an age of social media

Opportunities to debunk or verify abound, and the price for inaccuracy has never been higher, Craig Silverman argues.

Editor’s Note: Our colleagues upstairs at Nieman Reports are out with their Summer 2012 issue, “Truth in the Age of Social Media,” which focuses on issues like verification, crowdsourcing, and citizen journalism. Over the past few days, we’ve been giving you a glimpse at some of their stories — but make sure to read the issue in full. In this piece, Craig Silverman explores the complexity of verifying content in real time, and across multiple platforms.

In a handbook for aspiring journalists published in 1894, Edwin L. Shuman shared what he called one of the “most valuable secrets of the profession at its present stage of development.”

He revealed that it was standard practice for reporters to invent a few details, provided the made-up facts were nonessential to the overall story. “Truth in essentials, imagination in nonessentials, is considered a legitimate rule of action in every office,” he wrote. “The paramount object is to make an interesting story.”

It was easy for a reporter of the time to get away with a few, or even a bushel of, inventions. Information was scarce and could take days or weeks to make its way to the public sphere. The telephone was not yet widely in use, and the first transatlantic wireless transmission was years away. The early mass-market Kodak Brownie camera was close to a decade from release. The machinery of publishing and distribution was in the hands of a few.

If a reporter wanted to fudge a few details to make his story a little more colorful, well, chances are no one would notice or call him on it. Shuman’s advice is objectionable, but something about it — and the information and reporting environment in which it was offered — seems quaint and charming by today’s standards.

It also highlights how much things have changed when it comes to accuracy and verification.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

Image of fail whale by Brent Payne used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     July 18, 2012, 10:30 a.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Newsonomics: On end games and end times
Can publishers find a sustainable business model this new age of Facebook/Apple/Snapchat/Twitter/Google distributed content? And is local news destined to be left behind?
What Scribd’s growing pains mean for the future of digital content subscription models
It turns out that ebook subscription models don’t work very well when people read too much. So what happens next?
How research (and PowerPoints) became the backbone of National Journal’s membership program
“We no longer look at National Journal simply as a news source, but as a collection of resources, as well as a collection of experts we can turn to on occasion.”
What to read next
2843
tweets
A blow for mobile advertising: The next version of Safari will let users block ads on iPhones and iPads
Think making money on mobile advertising is hard now? Think how much more difficult it will be with a significant share of your audience is blocking all your ads — all with a simple download from the App Store.
1763For news organizations, this was the most important set of Apple announcements in years
A new Flipboard-clone with massive potential reach, R.I.P. Newsstand, and news stories embedded deeper inside iOS — it was a big day for news on iPhones and iPads.
762Newsonomics: 10 numbers that define the news business today
From video to social, from mobile to paywalls — these data points help define where we are in the “future of news” today, like it or not.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Voice of San Diego
FiveThirtyEight
Patch
Wikipedia
Detroit Free Press and Detroit News
Circa
Next Door Media
The UpTake
Salon
The Daily Beast
USA Today
St. Louis Globe-Democrat