Verify, Verify, Verify – The Future of News?

From 12 to 14 November 2014 we had the opportunity to attend the NewsXchange 2014 conference in Prague, Czech Republic. "We" in this case means DW Innovation's Wilfried Runde and Jochen Spangenberg, completed by Ellen Schuster of DW's Strategic Programme Planning Department.

The annual conference is one of Europe's prime events for the news industry. It brings together experts from all over the world. This year's headcount came down to an astonishing 520 delegates–a first time ever sell-out in the NewsXchange history. Most attendants were either members of the broadcasting and electronic media industries or news agencies. Others came from solution and service providers making their way to the Czech capital to attend an inspiring and well-organized event that was well worth the visit.

News coverage and reporting from all angles

Being future-of-media-savvy people, we used the opportunity to discuss the state of affairs in newsgathering and reporting, and to find out about current and new trends and challenges.

Sessions covered a wide spectrum of topics relevant for the news industry. They ranged from impartiality to accountability, addressed issues such as dealing with crisis or war coverage, and how to handle gruesome images and deal with possible resulting traumas.

Very interesting to see were the demonstrations of emerging technological trends such as a new mobile app, presented by BBC's Robin Pembrooke in his session "Meet the new editor: the algorithm".

The discussions about the efforts, activities and approaches of both established players (such as AFP and AlJazeera) and newcomers to the market (like Upworthy and Buzzfeed) also drew a lot of attention.

It’s Editor Plus Algorithm #NX14 @robinpembrooke.@DW_Innovation

Spreading the word–the importance of verification

Our team didn't only consume. Wilfried and Jochen both actively used the opportunity to spread the word about REVEAL, one of our current Research & Development projects. REVEAL deals primarily with the verification of User Generated Content (UGC). In addition to covering various angles of verification, portraying trends and tendencies in this field from a journalistic perspective, the REVEAL consortium is also developing tools that aid in and partly automate the process of UGC verification.

It once more became obvious that verification of UGC is a vital aspect when it comes to news reporting: Some sessions were dedicated exclusively to the topic.

A combined presentation/workshop by Storyful's Aine Kerr entitled "Time for Action–Setting the rules of the road for eyewitness media" caught not just our attention but drew in a large crowd. So did the session "When it comes to UGC–do news executives know what they're doing" by Claire Wardle of the Tow Center / UNHCR / Eyewitness Media Hub.

Full HousePhoto by @emhub

In the above-mentioned workshop Adam Rendle, lawyer at Taylor Wessing LLP, stressed legal implications of using UGC. All this led to lively discussions on various aspects of verification and raised awareness about how the topic could (or should) be approached.

If you are interested in more details about this particular part and topic of the conference, there is a good summary documenting the outcomes in "Best practice tips for eyewitness media from #NX14" by Abigail Edge on The article also provides general advice for newsrooms managing user generated content–and it it is well worth reading!

Other sessions that dealt with news reporting in general also stressed the importance of checking and verifying material that is circulated in Social Networks. This is vital in order to report accurately and not risk loosing trust and credibility–something that is at stake when faked, manipulated or untrue events or stories are reported by established (and generally trusted) media brands.

This was all summed up very well by delegate and panelist Rania Abouzeid, an independent journalist covering the Middle East, especially Syria. When asked in the session "Can media change the world? A session on accountability", moderated by Channel 4 News' Jon Snow, about what matters most in news reporting, her answer was direct and clear: "Verify, verify, verify!"

Verification is keyScreenshot

Loaded with insights and ideas

After three days full of intensive discussions and having attended numerous panels and workshops, the DW team returned "back to base" in Bonn and Berlin, loaded with many new insights and ideas as well as a big stack of new business cards each.

Further reading

If you want to further follow the discussions around NewsXchange 2014, here are a few additional resources we can recommend:

Copyright notice / sources / credits:

Twitter screenshot with posts by Caroline Bannock, UGC coordinator at The Guardian with GuardianWitness, Hannah Storm, Director of International News Safety Institute INSI, and DW Innovation

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