Welcome to First Draft News
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As stated in a letter from Executive Director Claire Wardle on June 14, 2022, First Draft’s mission is moving to the Information Futures Lab at Brown University. The materials on this website will remain in the short term as we finalize plans for the resources collected here. Thanks, and please join us at IFL!

Welcome to First Draft News

A new site full of essential reads and resources for journalists sourcing and reporting news from social media

The shockwave of information around a breaking news event travels faster and further than at any time in human history. This is the blessing and the curse social media bestows.

Yet with that torrent in communication comes the confusion and mayhem which is an inevitable byproduct of the search for truth. People cling to rumour to make sense of trauma. It is part of the grieving process. It’s human nature.

Journalists and news organisations are the hands that guide the public here but, as is so often the case, technology changes the process faster than we can react to it.

So how can journalists find sources and material on social media when a story breaks? How can they test the legitimacy of what they find? How should they approach and credit sources? How can they stop the spread of rumours and hoaxes? And how can they do all this while remaining commercially competitive?

The First Draft Coalition was established to address these questions, and today First Draft News launches as a destination site full of essential reads and resources to take that conversation further.

We will be publishing features, case studies, interactives, videos, podcasts, industry news, how-to guides and collections of tools on a daily basis to help journalists navigate this new minefield of reportage.

As the collections of resources grow, you can create ‘packs’ of articles and tests to share among your newsroom, by logging in and following the straightfoward steps.

But we also want to hear from you. What challenges does your newsroom face? What questions still dog your newsgathering process? What has worked for you, and what hasn’t? First Draft Coalition members have decades of experience between them but the wider industry is just as much of the process in exploring this new field as they are. If you have any questions or suggestions do get in touch.

The core sections of the site include:

Social newsgathering

There will almost always be a member of the public with a smartphone and social media account at the scene of a news event before a journalist can get there. So how can journalists find this material quickly?

Knowing the tools and techniques to quickly find newsworthy material on Twitter, Instagram and other social networks will get you up to speed with a story fast and give you an edge over the competition.

Verification

Just as no self-respecting editor would print photos of a major story without checking out the source and content first, neither should journalists blithely share or publish anything from social media without verifying it. The platforms have changed but the rules still apply.

The source, date and location of an image or video are the core elements that need verifying. Finding the person behind the username comes down to social search skills – and they should be questioned with the same rigour and sensitivity as any other source – but there are a growing number of ways to check out the date and location as well.

Ethics and law

The man who filmed the Charlie Hebdo shooting with shaking hands from his Parisian bedroom window instantly regretted sharing it to social media. But it was too late.

Within an hour of taking the video down it appeared on TV channels and newspaper websites and the spectre of that day continues to haunt him, the witnessing of a horrific event compounded by being chewed up by the media machine.

News organisations have a duty of care to sources on social media like any other, and a disregard for proper processes cannot only damage an outlet’s relationship with the public but copyright infringements can be very, very expensive.

Fakes and hoaxes

Most of the time news organisations have a strong enough bullshit filter to not be caught out by online fakes and hoaxes, but not always. Sometimes the incentive of harnessing web traffic generated by popular hoaxes can overwhelm the most robust journalistic senses.

But as guardians of the truth, news organisations and journalists need to find a way to stem the tide of fake news stories that are shared on social media.

Check out the ‘fakes and hoaxes’ section to see some famous debunks and opinions on what action journalists can take to uphold the truth.

Case studies

Every time a big news story breaks first on social media the industry’s understanding of this area takes a step forward. Recent attacks in Paris, the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the Erdawan shrine bombing in Bangkok, and protests in Baltimore and Ferguson have all served as lessons in what news organisations should and shouldn’t do when news breaks.

We have already looked at some of these cases, and will continue to see what lessons can be learned from breaking news situations – past and present.

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