Book Review: Verification Handbook is a must-read for all digital journalists
Edited by Craig Silverman, the founder and editor of Regret the Error, The Verification Handbook contains case studies written by various journalists working in digital media. The book is easy to read, with parts of it resembling a Storify piece with embedded tweets and photos to illustrate points, writes Diana Pereira.
Reviewed by Diana Pereira
It's nice to know that the process of verification in modern-day journalism now has an entire handbook dedicated to it.
The concept of verification has been around for as long as storytelling has existed, but The Verification Handbook explains how the process has changed to deal with social media.
Did you know, for example, that one of the shark photos that went viral during Hurricane Sandy—the one showing a shark swimming up next to a house—was proven fake by simply using Google Images? "The Google Image search approach paid off—we were able to find the exact image of a shark's fin that had been Photoshopped into one of the pictures," writes Tom Phillips, a senior writer at BuzzFeed UK.
Edited by Craig Silverman, the founder and editor of Regret the Error, a Poynter Institute blog about media errors, accuracy and verification, The Verification Handbook contains case studies written by various journalists working in digital media.
The book is easy to read, with parts of it resembling a Storify piece with embedded tweets and photos to illustrate points.
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One of the main points of the book is that a plan and procedure should be in place before news breaks. Too often, organizations make up verification standards on the fly instead of referring to a pre-determined set of guidelines. The book says a toolkit of resources and checklists helps build a solid process for verifying information in breaking news situations.
The book states "the question at the heart of verification is ‘How do you know that?’" It goes on to list different methods of verification. Anthony De Rosa, the editor-in-chief at Circa, says social media should be treated as a police scanner—that is, with much skepticism.
The book explains how to verify specific types of information and media, such as names and locations, images and video. Remember the video of an eagle swooping down in Montreal and picking up a baby? The video was found to be false after it was split into single frames. The eagle's shadow was missing in some frames!
Chapter 10, "Verification Tools," provides a three-page list of tools. OpenStreetMap, for example, is a map database, while Wikimapia is a crowd-sourced map site that contains descriptions of various locations. Google's reverse image search allows users to use an image to determine whether it exists somewhere on the internet.
Chapter 9 is useful too: it's a seven-page checklist that explains how to create a verification process.
The Verification Handbook should be at any editor's desk side-by-side with a stylebook and dictionary. As information is transferred faster and faster with each new piece of technology, it's a smart guide that is handy when it comes time to verify if that eagle is actually plucking a child up off the ground.
Diana Pereira is the digital news editor for 680News and CityNews and teaches journalism at Ryerson University.
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