Interesting in-class activity about verifying user generated information in citizen journalism

Citizen journalism on its rise nowadays, thanks to the rapid advancement of technology. People can easily post breaking news details on social media platform and that could be faster than any of the elite journalists’ work. But the problem for newsroom is to verify the source and credibility. Would the post be only rumors or hoaxes? Or they are real and news worthy information?

I was trying explore this field of knowledge in my Digital Journalism lesson today. To avoid memory loss I decided to type out the process when I could still recall.

First Draft News is an interesting website tool to explore and learn about “news gathering and verification resources”.

Here on First Draft News you will find relevant features, reviews, case studies and analysis authored by members of the First Draft Coalition alongside a library of free training resources for use in the newsroom and the classroom.

We tried to play these two interesting but challenging games from the web to test on the verification skills.
1. Observation Challenge
2. Geolocation Challenge

Then we are trying to verify something “real” – something post by people at the location when the incident happened.

My first task was to verify a photo posted during the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong on 23 Sept 2014.

View this post on Instagram

#studentstrike #hongkong #admiralty

A post shared by Lukas Messmer (@lukasmessmer) on

My Hongkonger sense told me it was taken somewhere nearby Timar Park. But where is it exactly? The skyscapers in the background gave me bit of hint – it is the JW Marriott Hotel. So I googled it, and figured the approximate direction that the camera was pointing at. I tried to search over Timar Park but seems I was wrong. The people were sitting on a platform-liked thing instead of a greenland area in the park.

I moved on to search for something high, like a overhead bridge or so. Finally I saw a small platform sticking out form the Central Government Offices – there were even protestors captured and showed on the  Google Map photos at that period of time!


So after verifying the local place, we moved on to something international. Among them, I chose to verify this video posted on Instagram about the earthquake in Antofagasta, Chile, on 3 April 2014 – and our TA said this is probably the most difficult one…

It was not difficult to figure the earthquake day and time, but the main problem here is that – any normal street could look like this, especially in dark! Soon later with the hint from our TA, we were able to get a close-up look of one of the landmark-ish building from another photos in the Instagram post earlier. And we got the name of that building: Hospital del Salvador.

But soon we figured there is actually another building with the same name, and this one now was already used as something else. With the language barrier (although with Google Translate), I failed to figure out its new name, hence I turned to use another method. I look for a photo with this building and look for its inbuilt GPS information from camera. And I got the exact location!

Screen shot

From Panoramio, a photos uploaded by a user with camera inbuilt GPS information listed.

The Instagram video was shot at Av. Argentina.

Google Map location

Av Argentina – street where the incident happened.


The last post is easy – maybe after all the previous training/experience – it took me approximately 5 minutes for an answer.

It was the 2015 Ankara bombings happened on 10 Oct 2015. Google told me that the attack happened outside the Ankara Central railway station. So obviously the big building shown in the video is the station and all I have to do is just to locate it.

Aviation view form Google Map

Aviation view form Google Map


The last part of this lesson’s work is to find one UGC content posted by news media and verify it. I picked a clip from Apple Daily: Six Nepal men “chasing and chopping” a fellow in Jordon on 3 Oct 2016.

At 11 seconds of the video, I spotted a banner called “發仔記”. I search online for its address and it is at 87 Parkes St, Yau Ma Tei. I also noticed the spot is somewhere near a crossroad with a big triangle sign on the road. So my nearest guess would be in the middle of Parkes Street and Nanking Street.

Google map location

Google map location

From another follow-up reporting of the case from Apple Daily,  I saw a big logo of 位元堂 in the photo, which is also on the same part on Parkes Street. And it further confirmed me that my  guess is right.

Apple daily photo


Source verification is definitely a tiring job! You need to go for a comprehensive search on any smallest clue spotted. Google Map, Google Earth, Google Translate are very handy and useful in terms of that.

But definitely the process is inescapable and necessary if the newsroom would love to make use of citizen journalism – after all it does give us a lot more real-time and down to earth information around the world. Some special training or a systematic structure might needed for further development in this journalism area (maybe soon later a verification workshop or course?)



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