How First Draft is working with journalists and the public to ensure credible coverage in critical moments

Online courses, crisis simulation training, resources, collaboration and a global 'highlight' tipline are planned for the coming weeks and months.

At First Draft we are approaching our five-year year anniversary. We launched in June 2015, a year that saw a terrifying rise of terrorist attacks around the world. Eyewitness experiences and images that were instantly shared on social media became an essential aspect of real-time reporting.  A lot has happened since then and challenges for journalists have increased, year on year. As we find ourselves now experiencing a global pandemic and associated infodemic, everything we have learned about how to support journalists during periods of extraordinary pressure matters now more than ever. 

With continued core support from Google News Initiative and the Craig Newmark Philanthropies, First Draft is working to help drive credible coverage during this crisis. So here is what we have planned for the coming weeks and months: 

Guiding best practice reporting through online training

First Draft is sharing skills, insights and tools to support reporters and the wider public respond to the ‘infodemic’ following the outbreak of coronavirus. Yesterday we launched Covering Coronavirus: an Online Course for Journalists, designed to help reporters and information providers gain new skills and receive best practice recommendations on how to tackle misinformation relating to the coronavirus. You can read our post about the course here.

The course sets out to: explain how and why false information spreads; provide tools and techniques for monitoring and verifying information online, including images and videos; share best practice around reporting on coronavirus; and offer advice on how those covering the crisis every day can protect their own mental and emotional wellbeing.

The modular design of the course allows journalists to jump to the section they are most interested in, or complete the course sequentially from start to finish.

We aim to translate key aspects of this course into as many languages as we can, as soon as we can. A further course on this topic for the wider public is imminent as we continue our work with communities in how they understand and inform their navigation around the information overload.

Empowering the public to report concerning content and quickly find the information they are seeking

In the coming days, we will launch our public campaign, designed to encourage people to pause and consider the information they see online and to highlight any useful, harmful, questionable or missing information.  At a time when quality information matters more than ever, these ‘tips’ will assist First Draft’s global network of reporters, researchers and specialists and help shape news coverage. Our aim is to support newsrooms in coordinating a rapid, effective response to information vacuums and prevent misinformation breaking through.

Helping journalists to build resilience using crisis simulation training

We started the year preparing newsrooms across the US for an information crisis, visiting 15 cities and training over 900 journalists using a dedicated online simulation platform to demonstrate how to monitor, verify and respond to online threats. The scenario we used was built around election preparation and tactics of manipulation. We are working to adapt this simulation to reflect the anticipated challenges presented by coronavirus and allow participants to experience the exercise remotely, testing their newsroom capabilities and response. 

Sharing the very best resources for reporters

We are currently running multiple webinars per week (you can keep track of the schedule on our dedicated webinar page), and we are leading as many as possible in different languages (including French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian). We are scheduling the series to reach different timezones and uploading the recordings to our webinar page so they will be available to everyone at any time.

We will continue to update our dedicated Reporters Hub with guides, recommended tools, relevant articles and research. We will be building on our series of essential guides and preparing short, quick reference explainers and checklists to accompany each one. 

Also from this week, our Daily & Weekly Briefing emails include trends, insights and analysis directly related to coronavirus, based on our own monitoring efforts and the input we are receiving from our international network of reporters and researchers. Sign up to receive these here.

You can find and search for each of our daily briefings on this dedicated page in our Reporters Hub.

Sparking successful collaboration through programs and partnerships 

Work is underway to connect journalists and researchers from around the world, in an effort to enhance reporting and ensure that newsrooms and other information providers can respond quickly to address escalating content that is causing confusion and harm. This global CrossCheck network is launching with invitations to all partners who have previously participated in a CrossCheck project over the past few years. We already have journalists from across the US sharing examples, tips and verification expertise. Joining them in the coming days and weeks will be representatives from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Nigeria, Spain, South Africa, UK and Uruguay. To nominate your organization to join, click here

We will also expand on our searchable database of fact-checked and verified reports, collected from credible information sources across the web, such as IFCN and WHO. This will soon include our own CrossCheck information cards, designed to provide clarity and guidance around the most urgent topics of concern relating to coronavirus. The cards will be presented in a digital, shareable format which will allow us to update them daily and link directly to the latest information reported by our network of partners around the world. Our goal is to provide an online template for verified CrossCheck participants to create their own region and language specific cards. We will encourage our partners to ‘crosscheck’ each others work by adding the logo of their organization, a technique that we know can help to provide an indicator of credibility to the public.

Above all else, our priority is to provide useful and constructive support to everyone working to improve information quality, and ensure credible coverage when it matters most. If you have any suggestions for more that we can do, please email [email protected]