With all of the documented strengths that social media can bring to a journalist’s reporting, one large obstacle often remains: verification. It isn’t difficult for a topic to start trending on Twitter and when it gets into the right (or wrong) hands it can spread like wildfire. (Take Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot’s 2010 “death” for example. It started with a tweet in Ottawa that the singer had died and within minutes the news was broadcast across the country. Lightfoot heard the news over the radio on his way to the dentist.)
A new service, Geofeedia (previously Geofeedr) launched its new interface today. It aims to aid journalists when reporting breaking news by allowing them to monitor geographical areas or to identify an area of interest. It displays geotagged content from the areas from social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr and Picasa. The idea is that by quickly locating the content, journalists can verify information, and find photos and interview sources for breaking news stories.
Geofeedia’s new interface comes with a hefty price tag: $1,450 a month for five users. Too steep for some news organizations? Right now, the company is offering free trials in hopes that new organizations stick to it.
Managing editor of Poynter, Steve Myers, asked a few journalists who have used the new tool about their experiences. The consensus: it has potential and can be helpful (especially in finding photos) but it doesn’t bring up as much information as it could and isn’t quite worth the price tag — or any price tag at all.
There are other ways to bring up similar information without paying for it. Twitter’s advanced search acts like a boolean search and allows its users to search for tweets or photos within a certain radius. It can also include specific words, people and phrases. There are other websites available that can also help. Topsy.com is a real time search engine that brings up the latest links, tweets, photos and videos of just about anything you type into its search box. Storyful.com has a team of journalists who filter out the main news stories from the clutter of the web.
The answer to completely solving verification issues is still at large. Although these new tools and websites are helpful, it’s up to journalists to be cautious when reporting breaking news using social media.