Telling the truth from lies – Verification tips for journalists

How can journalists tell truth from lies in an age in which they are increasingly dependent on the cacophony online to define the day’s news and find new sources and trending stories? Here are some very useful guides with easily-adaptable tips for you.

The Handbook prescribes best practice advice on how to verify and use this information provided by the crowd, as well as actionable advice to facilitate disaster preparedness in newsrooms. While it primarily targets journalists and aid providers, the Handbook can be used by anyone. It’s advice and guidance are valuable whether you are a news journalist, citizen reporter, relief responder, volunteer, journalism school student, emergency communication specialist, or an academic researching social media.

This how-to features advice from a panel of experts on the key considerations, questions and tools journalists should have in mind when carrying out verification of content that surfaces via social media, be it a news tip, an image, a piece of audio or video.

From media and journalism blogger Steve Buttry. He provides useful tips on evaluating twitter resources, evaluating tweets for context, how to connect to sources outside of Twitter and how to crowdsource verification from reliable sources online.

Related from the Online Journalism blog:

The article suggests a three-level approach to verification: starting with the content itself, moving on to the context surrounding it; and finishing with the technical information underlying it. Most of the techniques outlined take very little time at all but the key thing is to look for warning signs and follow those up.

Here are some highlights –

  1. Don’t retweet immediately. Especially if it’s breaking news.
  2. Stop trusting mainstream news organizations. Just because a major name is attached to the tweet doesn’t mean it’s true. Live by the old adage: “If your mother tells you it’s true, check it out.”
  3. Pick up the freaking phone. Again, don’t trust, verify.
  4. Verify, verify, verify. Stop the lazy journalism folks. Hitting the retweet is easy. Do some work instead.

And last, but certainly not least: B.S. detection for digital content – tools, advice and strategies to master the art of online verification


  • Aldon Walukamba

    This is very resourceful information that every media practitioner trainer must visit for reference