The Verification Handbook: Clearing Debris Off Disaster, Emergency News

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This handbook offers lots of tools and some technical advice — but the most important pieces are non-technical. It’s about a mindset, about asking questions when others don’t, and maintaining skepticism when something looks true, or is more attractive if true. — Craig Silverman, co-author

By Marleena Litton

FINALLY RELEASED online this January 2014 is Verification Handbook which is written by 22 authors including Regret the Error editor, Craig Silverman and Shabab Souria (Syria Youth) News group co-founder, M.SH.

The handbook comes as a fresh guide for journalists, citizen reporters and the rest of us who understand the importance of valid data during disasters and crises. The publishers say that: “While it primarily targets journalists and aid providers, the handbook can be used by anyone. It’s advise and guidance are valuable whether you are a news journalist, citizen reporter, relief responder, volunteer, journalism school student, emergency communication specialist, or an academic researching social media.”

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Don’t trust even honest witnesses. Seek documentation. — Steve Buttry, co-author

Verification Handbook consist of ten chapters which discuss tools and practices in verifying images, videos and user-generated content; plus, putting the human crowd to work; adding the computer crowd to the human crowd; and, preparing for disaster coverage, among others. Co-author, Steve Buttry, contributes learning and precise guidelines in Chapter 2 of the handbook, Verification Fundaments: Rules to Live By wherein he shared the three factors which verification employs, namely: 1) A person’s resourcefulness, persistence, skepticism and skill; 2) Sources’ knowledge, reliability and honesty, and the number, variety and reliability of sources you can find and persuade to talk; and, 3) Documentation.

“Documentation has changed with technology,” he adds. This fact thus brings into focus the task and responsibility of citizen reporters or anyone of us equipped with devices suited and capable of grabbing footage of current events, who may at one point, use them in an earnest attempt to document emergency situations, among others. This guide really is, for everyone. Though it demands a shift in mindset to sift through the rubble of information we are exposed to everyday, it basically calls for its necessity for disaster preparedness which is no longer uncommon in our times. More importantly, this addresses the need for daily conscious efforts to discern well and verify information especially when seduced with bleak, shadowed stories that drop us to an impasse — for either in a state of anxiety or exploding with overjoy, readers and viewers are prone to be reeled in by their own reactive behavior.

Verification Handbook is the new bible for the information era that advocates for healthy, proactive cyberlife habits that instill integrity. And when under a turnstile of sensitive and overwhelming events, all daily cautious efforts will enable us to eventually save lives — offline or online. Verification Handbook: A Definite Guide to Verifying Digital Content for Emergency Coverage is available online for free with its current web format.

Spread the good news; it definitely won’t hurt. — MTL

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