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Published on October 16th, 2012 | by EJC

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Verification and Validation Tools

Verification is a crucial step in the practice of journalism. Facts, data and quotes must be checked for every story. Here is a list of online verification tools that can help journalists in checking and finding out more about their leads.

Here is the list of must-reads on how leading newsrooms are handling the issue of verification/validation:

People: Use these online verification tools to find contact details and profiles of users who are active on social media.

  • WHOIS
    Finds the registered users of a domain name and details the date of registration, location and contact details of the registrant or assignee.
  • Spokeo
    A people search engine that can find individuals by name, email, phone or username. Results are merged into a profile showing gender and age, contact details, occupation, education, marital status, family background, economic profile and photos.
  • Hoverme
    This plug-in for Google Chrome reveals social media users’ profiles on other networks from the Facebook news feed.
  • Identify
    Similarly, this Firefox plug-in creates a profile of individuals’ social media identities from any page.
  • Rapportive
    This Gmail plug-in gives users a profile on their contacts, including social media accounts, location, employment.
  • Klout
    Measures individuals’ influence across their social media network, expressed as a Klout Score, by looking at variables such as follower numbers, re-tweets, the influence of those re-tweeting, mentions, comments, likes and number of friends.
  • AllAreaCodes
    Allows users to look up the name and address listed against a phone number. The service is free if the number is listed in the White Pages, and they provide details about unlisted numbers for a small price.
  • PeopleBrowsr
    A platform and tool on which the crowd can monitor and synthesize social media and news into location and time sequence, which can then also be filtered down. The platform also features a credibility score measuring users’ influence and outreach on social networks.
  • Person Finder
    One of the most well-known open source databank for individuals to post and search for the status of their loved ones affected by a disaster. Whenever a large-scale disaster happens, the Google Crisis Team sets up a person finder whether it is for the earthquake in Sichuan or the Boston bombings. For instance, journalists could possibly use Person Finder to connect with the family members or friends of the missing individuals for interviews.

The golden rule, say Hub veterans, is to get on the phone whoever has posted the material. Even the process of setting up the conversation can speak volumes about the source’s credibility: unless sources are activists living in a dictatorship who must remain anonymous to protect their lives, people who are genuine witnesses to events are usually eager to talk. Anyone who has taken photos or video needs to be contacted in any case to request their permission, as the copyright holder, to use it.

- David Turner, Inside the BBC’s Verification Hub (2012)

Places

  • Google Maps
    An online map providing high resolution aerial or satellite imagery covering much of the Earth, except for areas around the poles. Includes a number of viewing options such as terrain, weather information and a 360 degree street level view.
  • Panoramio
    Photo-sharing website carrying millions of geo-located images uploaded on to a Google Maps layer.
  • Wolfram Alpha
    A computational answer engine that responds to questions using structured and curated data from its knowledge base. Unlike search engines, which provide a list of relevant sites, Wolfram Alpha provides direct, factual answers and relevant visualisations.
  • United States Zip Codes
    An online map of the United States categorised according to zip code. Users are able to search for a specific zip code, or can explore the map for information about different zip codes.

Images

In the end, the discipline of verification is what separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction, or art… Journalism alone is focused first on getting what happened down right.
- Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism (2001)

  • TinEye
    A reverse image search engine that connects images to their creators by allowing users to find out where an image originated, how it is used, whether modified versions exist and if there are higher resolution copies.
  • Google Search by Image
    By uploading or entering an image’s URL users can find content such as related or similar images, websites and other pages using the specific image. Take a look at this post to get an idea of how you can use image search.
  • Foto Forensics
    This website uses error level analysis (ELA) to indicate parts of an image that may have been altered. ELA looks for differences in quality levels in the image, highlighting where alterations may have been made.
  • JPEGsnoop
    Free Windows only application that can detect whether an image has been edited. Despite its name it can open AVI, DNG, PDF, THM, and embedded JPEG files. Also retrieves meta data including: date, camera type, lens settings, etc.
  • Jeffery’s Exif Viewer
    An online tool that reveals the Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) information of a digital photo which includes date and time, camera settings, and in some cases GPS location.

Photo: he|G|™

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7 Responses to Verification and Validation Tools

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