Accuracy & Verification


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These are slides for a workshop on accuracy and verification at Georgetown University. I am collaborating with Craig Silverman on the workshop.

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Accuracy & Verification

  1. 1. Accuracy& Verification<br />Georgetown University<br />Sept. 17, 2011<br />Steve Buttry<br />
  2. 2. Read more about it<br /><br />@stevebuttry<br /><br />
  3. 3. Plan for the day<br />Intro and overview<br />Causes and types of errors<br />Getting it right<br />Vetting & verifying info from social media<br />Taking accurate notes<br />Preventing errors<br />If your sources are wrong …<br />
  4. 4. Your worst error …<br />
  5. 5. Journalism basics<br />The 5 W’s<br />Who?<br />What?<br />When?<br />Where?<br />Why?<br />How?<br />
  6. 6. Journalism basics<br />The 5 W’s<br />Who?<br />What?<br />When?<br />Where?<br />Why?<br />How?<br />Just as essential<br />How do you know that?<br />How else do you know that?<br />
  7. 7. Degrees of truth<br />“Truthiness” & “Semi-True Story”<br />Accurate but incomplete & misleading<br />Accurate in context<br />Truth = Accuracy + context + credibility<br />SPJ Code of Ethics:<br />“Seek truth and report it.”<br />
  8. 8. Causes & types of errors<br />
  9. 9. Get the names right<br />Ask each source to spell name<br />Spell name back (even common names)<br />Show spelling in notebook<br />Get it in writing (biz card, desk, notebook, program)<br />Check online & archives (but be careful)<br />Get contact info<br />
  10. 10. How do you know that?<br />If first-hand knowledge: What did you see? What did you hear? Feel? Smell?<br />If heard it, from whom? How can I reach him/her?<br />If read it, where? Where can I get that document or report?<br />Don’t worry about annoying source w/ questions.<br />
  11. 11. Evaluate the source<br />Does he/she have official access?<br />Is he/she well-connected to get unofficial access?<br />Your history w/ source<br />Source’s motivation in telling the truth (or lying)<br />
  12. 12. Evaluate the info<br />Is it theory, speculation, rumor or fact?<br />Is it current?<br />Is it complete?<br />What is the context?<br />Does is make sense?<br />If it sounds too good to be true …<br />
  13. 13. Challenge the information<br />Who else would know?<br />What documents would confirm or refute?<br />Who would have a different perspective?<br />Who would wish this wasn’t true?<br />
  14. 14. Vetting & verifying<br />
  15. 15. Use technology<br />Make audio recording (audio clips are good web content)<br />Make video recording (or livestream event/interview<br />Take notes at keyboard (or liveblog)<br />Take photos (not just for story)<br />
  16. 16. Why take (good) notes?<br />Some sources don’t want to be recorded<br />You can’t always record everything on video<br />You don’t have time to replay full recorded interview/event<br />Recording equipment malfunctions<br />Audio may be inaudible<br />
  17. 17. What goes in notes?<br />You’re doing story, not minutes or transcript<br />Record what’s relevant for story<br />Distinguish between info & quotes<br />Take context notes<br />Record your questions in notes<br />
  18. 18. Echo, echo,echo<br />Slow speaker down & repeat (You said fifteen – one-five – million with an M, right?)<br />Rephrase (Let me make sure I understood correctly: You said …)<br />Repeat in your mind as you’re taking key quote down<br />
  19. 19. Workflow for accuracy<br />Liveblog and/or live-tweet<br />Review, expand & annotate notes right after interview/event<br />Write right away (even if story is a long-term one)<br />Review quotes in recordings<br />
  20. 20. Get the “WalMart sack”<br />
  21. 21. Get the “WalMart sack”<br />Ask sources for documentation:<br />Contemporary notes, journals, diaries, emails, letters<br />Photos<br />Videos (security, media, personal)<br />Personal <br />
  22. 22. What’s in the WalMart sack?<br />Documentation<br />Context<br />Details <br />Authenticity<br />Credibility<br />Truth<br />