If you’ve not been in a cave since 1993, you will certainly have seen many sloppy, irresponsible uses of “crowdsourced” user-generated content (UGC) on the Internet, but also likely on your TV station and even in your newspaper. That the irresponsibility of such things has had dire and even grim consequences does not seem to trouble those who value clickthroughs and subjugation of journalistic integrity to advertising dollars.
It doesn’t have to be this way. One tool to fix the broken machinery of contemporary journalism is the new Verification Handbook, released in January of this year by the European Journalism Centre. Authored by leading journalists from the BBC, Storyful, ABC, Digital First Media and other verification experts, the Verification Handbook provides the tools, techniques and step-by-step guidelines for how to deal with UGC during emergencies.
But this isn’t just about emergencies. Emergencies are simply the commonest excuse for sloppy reportage–because “The public couldn’t wait!” is the typical cry of so-called journalists in the days of Twitter-length immediacy and attention spans. No, this is a guide to checking your stories before you post them at all, whether on the World Wide Web or in a quarterly journal for academics. If contemporary journalism should teach anything it should be that facts are in short supply compared to rumor. The Verification Handbook can help a user through this wasteland to find the real stories that need to be reported because they are ready.