How to develop your social discovery skills for more effective newsgathering

How can journalists develop their social media skills in order to gather and verify news? Fergus Bell, founder of news consultancy Dig Deeper Media, and Mandy Jenkins, news director for Storyful, a social news agency that acquires and verifies eyewitness journalism from around the world, addressed this question in a workshop that took place on April 9 at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia.

According to the panellists, journalists need to harness the power of social media to find, monitor, search and verify news.


Monitoring is a daily activity for all journalists. Creating lists on TweetDeck is one of the most effective ways to monitor your news feed, according to Jenkins. Journalists should create lists on the basis of their location and their area of interest.

Discovery and research

Discovery and research tools are used to find news and carry out in-depth research: “News agencies used to tell us what was happening and we then had to search for more content… Now Twitter and other digital sources are your agencies,” said Bell.

Bell presented several tools that can help journalists find news, such as Dataminr, a platform which analyses all public tweets and other data lists to deliver signals for breaking news, major events and emerging trends.

Jenkins also suggested to use some Google Chrome plugins that can help with social media navigation. Other useful tools are Facebook signal, a trending tool for journalists that sources videos, text, photos and data from Facebook and Instagram, and Google trends, that can help monitor news on the basis of key words and other criteria.


Journalists should inform the audience on how far they can get in the verification process. Both panellists spoke about their own verification process, which consists of verifying their source, as well as the location and the time of when they produced the content.

According to Jenkins, the process of source verification involves checking whether their accounts are real, how often they post, and what is their upload history. She introduced several tools like Spokeo, white pages and for researching sources.

Regarding location verification, Jenkins said searching the connection between the source and the location is the keystone of this process. Journalists should also research the accents and dialects for specific locations. Verifying the weather in certain places and times is also a way to verify the video itself and see if it is true. A tool like Wolfram|Alpha – which gives access to data and calculates answers across a range of topics – can even help find out about the weather at a certain time in a certain location.

Finally, Google Images and YouTube data viewer could be used to verify pictures and videos and see who uploaded it for the first time.