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Posts Tagged ‘sources’

Is Grasswire, a “Real-Time Newsroom,” a Better Version of Reddit?

GrasswireIt’s no secret that the Internet is often a hotbed of misinformation in the wake of a breaking news event, particularly during horrible disasters involving multiple deaths, such as the Sandy Hook shootings. And social media is often a conduit for the rapid spread of fake facts and those terribly convincing photos that circulate around seemingly without end.

But a new service called Grasswire plans to be a “real-time newsroom curated and fact checked by everyone.” Covered by PandoDaily’s David Holmes recently, the Android app and website seeks to rectify all the wrongs people (including journalists) have Twitter have committed in spreading non fact-checked information on social media by ensuring it doesn’t keep happening. The platform is reminiscent of Reddit, Holmes notes — only Grasswire’s verification process is a bit more in-depth.

“…Instead of simply upvoting or downvoting, users can click “confirm” or “refute.” The confirmations and refutations stick with each post so that when the link is shared to social media, whatever factchecking is in place goes along with it. That way, even if a Grasswire link to a false claim is tweeted out or posted to Facebook, once its been refuted all subsequent retweets and posts will surface that factcheck,” Holmes explained.

Honestly, I think Grasswire’s idea is a huge step in the right direction. As more social media outlets surface, and user bases rise, citizen journalism is becoming more mainstream. On the one hand, it’s great. An engaged citizenry that reads and shares the news and seeks to inform their followers of what’s going on in their towns, states, country, the world?

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The Anonymous Tip Box: Why Do We Bother?

Yesterday, the New Yorker launched an anonymous tip box. Excuse my skepticism, but I’m not sure why any newsroom wastes their resources on those things. (Sorry, boss!)

Instead of being a useful, secure tool for the public to use as a means of contacting an organization, tip boxes are in reality just a kitschy, spammy, and not particularly secure design element. I get why we have them — to make a show of transparency — but how many leads have you ever gotten from the tip box?

Every time I glimpse one of the notifications from ours in my inbox, I half expect the Syrian Electronic Army to pop out. But it’s usually an insult, jibberish, or a well meaning publicist with a request to cover an event entirely unrelated to the theme of our blog.

The key element here is safety. No one in their right mind– or at least the kind if people you’d want to be conversing with concerning a potential story– is going to try to contact you via the tip box. It’s like calling someone on a landline: intrusive and unlikely to result in a timely connection. It’s called email, or at this point, even a Twitter DM. 

If it weren’t for the disturbing news this week about the Justice Department’s seizure of AP’s phone records, maybe I could find room in my heart for the tip box. But if phone records aren’t safe from our own government, why would anyone leak something through an online tool such as the tip box? Perhaps I’m still just in shock and feeling vicariously betrayed, but the digital anonymous tip box is akin to the charming little crinkly noise my Kindle makes on my iPad. It’s a cute reminder of the more idealistic days of yore — the ones we like to think existed or hope for. But it’s all sort of a farce, isn’t it? 

6 Tips for Finding Sources Worth Their Salt

When it comes to journalism, the credentials of your sources can make or break your article. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that can help you weed out the nobodies from the knowledgeables online.

By now, you’ve surely heard of HARO (Help a Reporter Out), but founder Peter Shankman, said writers can also look to trade organizations for leads. “Each trade or industry has an organization behind it that serves as spokespeople for the industry,” he explained. “They’ll always take your call.”

Get more tips in 6 Surefire Ways to Find Sources in the Digital Age.

– Nicholas Braun

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New WikiLeaks Doc We Steal Secrets Examines the ‘Transparency Machine’

The saga of WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning presents many questions for digital journalists. We Steal Secrets, a documentary directed by Alex Gibney and set for release  this May, deals with them all. You can watch a trailer here.

You should see the film — even if you think you’ve already heard all you need to know about Wikileaks, even if you’ve already made up your mind. It not only covers the creation of Wikileaks, the fall of Julian Assange as a hacker-god, but includes new interviews with Michael Hayden, former CIA director, and the woman who accused Assange of rape, among many other inside players. However, the most compelling part of the documentary is that it finally puts Bradley Manning in center stage and presents new questions about digital security, sources, and how we protect them.

I used to champion WikiLeaks, and I cringe to admit it, its founder. In a far off graduate school classroom, I even considered the idea that it was a sort of ‘journalistic’ enterprise. But now that Manning has been serving time as an enemy of the state and his trial approaches, I’m finding it hard to focus on anything but him, and the responsibilities publishers assume online, with information and with their sources. Read more

Get a local phone number with Google Voice

Here’s a great tip for all the journalists out there clinging to their hometown cell phone numbers but living in a faraway area code: Use Google Voice as a cell phone number for local sources to call. It’s sort of like a forwarding e-mail address or a redirected domain, only it allows you to a) not share your private phone number with strangers, and b) take advantage of free features your phone provider doesn’t offer, like free text messaging and voicemail transcription.

Step 1: Get a Google account.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you already have one. If you don’t, you’re missing out on tons of great services, so sign up already.

Step 2: Pick a new, local number.

Since the point is to get a local number in your new city, type in your area code, zip code or city name and scan through a catalog of numbers in that area code. You can even search for words (based on the number each letter represents on the keypad) or sequences of numbers to make the number more memorable. Chances are there is some form of some word you want, but it make take several tries to find something that works and that is available. The more specific you are, the more likely your attempts to come up with an awesome number will be unavailable. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a number to mask your personal cell number, you could choose one in any area code in order to get that awesome sequence. The great thing is, it’s flexible, and you can test several configurations before committing. IF, on the other hand you don’t want a new number and only want the cool features, you can do this later on by porting your cell phone number into the system.

Step 3: Forward calls to your real number(s).

You can forward calls to pretty much any number (other than existing Google Voice numbers). I chose to send it to my cell phone. It will prompt you for the main number you want to connect it to, and then you’ll go through confirmation steps that are pretty easy to follow. Once you have it set up, you can even send your calls to multiple phones to be answered on the first picked up, so if you have your own office or desk phone, that may be an option for you. This is great if you’re a reporter who always gives out your cell phone number to avoid missed callbacks: Send your new number to both cell and desk phones, and then pick it up on your work phone if you’re in the office so you’re not wasting any of your cell phone minutes.

Step 4: Customize your experience, preferences, etc.

You’ll want to set up your voicemail box at a minimum, and one cool feature is the ability to customize different messages for different people. You might want a personal greeting for friends but something more formal for the mayor, for instance. But also look around at the preferences (e.g. do you want it to answer immediately, answer and give you a menu, send everyone to voicemail, etc.) and set those that work for you. For example, I set it up so my voicemails and SMS texts are e-mailed to me. This way it doesn’t use my phone’s texting plan and it transcribes my voicemail, so I don’t have to listen to them immediately — or sometimes at all. (Note: Sometimes the transcription is humorously bad. That’s half the fun. Usually, I can at least tell who it is, though, and always I can go in and listen if needed.) Another handy feature that seems custom made for reporters is the ability to record your voice calls and store them on Google Voice. It will prompt you to do this, if you set it up, and will tell the caller — so make sure you know your state laws when it comes to recording conversations. This is especially handy on cell phone calls where recording isn’t very feasible.

Step 5: Start disseminating your new number.

You could send it out as a mass note to your local sources. Or just start giving it out instead of your old number. You don’t need to explain Google Voice to anyone. They won’t even know they’re not calling a “real” number. Just start telling them, if you want to reach me on my cell phone call xxx-xxx-xxxx. Eventually, they’ll start calling and texting that. In addition to all the cool points above, the nice thing here is people no longer have to call an out-of-area-code number. It’s local, which is easier to remember, and local for those landline-lovers (and businesses with landlines) means the call is free. It also means, you don’t have to give out your real number to every man on the street.

Bonus: Get the Google Voice app for your phone.

Or at the least check out the nice mobile site. The app allows you to make calls that show up from your Google Voice number, without having to dial into Google Voice. With the Android app, it actually asks at the start of every call whether I want to call from Google Voice or not. That way folks recognize your number, and they also don’t see your personal number. It also stores all those other messages in one place (though it’s somewhat overkill to have e-mails of your sms/voicemails if you have the app, but your mileage may vary).

Bonus #2: Make free calls!

Connect Google Voice to your Google Talk account (the chat that pops up on iGoogle and Gmail) and make calls for free. It’s like Skype, only better because it calls the person from your new cell phone number, so people won’t dodge your “anonymous” calls. You can even plug in the number on the computer and have it call your phone and then connect you. (That’s a handy feature if, for example, your cell phone company doesn’t charge you for incoming calls.)

Bonus #3: Moving? Get a new local number.

The other cool thing about this service is if you move to another news organization in another community in the future, you can change your Google Voice number. It’s $10, but honestly, $10 seems a reasonable price to pay to keep your contacts, settings, etc. all tied together but front a new number. It’s certainly easier than changing your real cell phone number every time you move. It also has some overlap time so you can transition into the new number without disconnecting those who missed the new number message.

Note: This is an update to and expansion on a post previously published at in 2010.