Monday, June 03, 2013
Sorting through fact and fiction on CNN iReport

As anti-government protests have swept across Turkey in the past week, CNN iReport has received more than 800 photos, videos and stories from people on the ground. While some of these reports are original and have been verified by CNN, many others aren’t.

 

Everything you see on iReport starts with someone in the CNN audience, and the stories are not edited fact-checked or screened before they post. CNN producers will check out some of the most compelling, important and urgent iReports and, once they're cleared for CNN, make them a part of CNN's news coverage. The red “CNN iReport” logo indicates that a story has been verified and approved by a CNN iReport producer. The stories with the black “NOT VETTED FOR CNN” bar are exactly that – not approved for or verified by the network.

 

As a news organization, CNN reports both what it knows and does not know about a story.  Our vetting process at CNN iReport reflects that as well. In situations such as this, with countless accounts (and plenty of misinformation) from citizens spreading across social media and coming in through iReport, it’s increasingly important to curate that content and verify what’s factual.

 

It’s not an easy job, but it’s one we take very seriously.

 

This weekend a user posted a story to iReport claiming that police in Istanbul had used Agent Orange against protesters. The story and claims were being widely circulated on Twitter and in other social media, and the iReport itself was seeing significant traffic, even though it was not vetted by CNN and clearly marked that way. We received questions and criticism about why CNN hadn't taken the story down and in response, we followed up with CNN reporters in the field, who confirmed that there was no reason to believe the claims about Agent Orange were true, but that police had been using a colored substance on protesters. So we put an editor's note on the original story to add that additional context from CNN reporting. Again today, we saw a similar issue with a claim that a communications company called Turkcell had received pressure to block communications, which the company refuted, and which we clarified in an editor's note.

 

In the age of digital journalism and in with cases such as these, we believe it’s more responsible and clear to our audiences to keep content visible and add context and links that explain and clarify it, instead of deleting it completely. As long as an iReporter isn’t purposefully spreading misinformation – which would be a violation of the community guidelines for iReport that govern what is welcome and what is not – we err on the side of keeping that content visible to the public.

 

In these cases, though, we ultimately decided to remove the stories but leave up the additional context from our reporting because they were so widespread. It’s our job to dig into the content we receive on iReport, sort fact from fiction, and make those decisions as clear and available as we can. We believe this is the best approach for right now.

 

We often say that we’re writing the rules of citizen journalism as we go along, which is an exciting but sometimes daunting position to be in. It’s our hope that we can be transparent along the way, explain why we make the choices we do, and continue to listen to your feedback. If you have thoughts or questions, you’re welcome to share them below.

2 Comments
June 3, 2013
Click to view k3vsDad's profile

Thanks for the insight, Katie. As you and I have more or less talked about before, many people may have a misunderstanding about "citizen journalism" and iReport, which I believe causes confusion. As I noted in a report earlier from a link you shared on Facebook to an article about citizen journalism, iReport is basically a social network with a newsy bent to it. Even though at times our members actually do get a legitimate "scoop" captured in images or a video.

June 8, 2013
Click to view markpel's profile

I send iReport: "Istanbul´s Stray Dogs in Danger". I was contacted and questened by iReport team but the iReport was not vetted. Why? My iReport is fact - not fiction. 

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