We need to talk about… Breaking News and Social Media

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by WAN-IFRA Staff | March 23, 2016

Social media activity and initial reporting around yesterday’s bombs in Brussels underlined the need for newsrooms to have considered policies in place to guide reporters and producers when big news breaks.

It is not just about separating fact from fiction, or verifying whether a photo is from the scene or an archive. It extends to the ethics of what and how you publish.

How do you treat user-generated content, like videos? Is it okay to simply use video and attribute it to “Twitter” without seeking permission to republish? Copyright infringement is a real possibility. Your reputation and the trust of readers is at stake.

When you do publish video of a calamitous scene, should you suspend your preroll? Yesterday one newspaper was running a Netflix ad for the Marvel Daredevil series seconds before it was showing people fleeing from the airport.

Because of the terror attacks of recent years, particularly Charlie Hebdo, a lot of thought has gone into the best way to manage breaking news and eyewitness media from the event. There are plenty of examples online of good policies.

A useful place to start is First Draft News, a coalition of organisations dedicated to raising awareness and standards in all aspects of social newsgathering and verification.

The key though is to adapt those policies to your own organisation and to train your teams. When big news breaks they need to be prepared and so will be less likely to be overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment.

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