Ten tips for sourcing stories from social media


Dhruti Shah and Jochen Spangenberg

During an afternoon session of the news:rewired conference, in London today, Dhruti Shah, UGC producer with BBC News, and Jochen Spangenberg, innovation manager from Reveal project/ Deutsche Welle, shared their tips on how to use social media to efficiently and ethically source stories:

1. The best stories are about people so find the people that are right at the heart of the story

2. Remember the basic rules of journalism and – even on social media – ask the big Ws: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

3. Verify. Information on social media is not always trustworthy – so do as much as possible to make sure it is accurate

Jochen Spangenberg said:

Getting it wrong once can be more powerful than getting it right 1000 times.

4. Get to know useful new tools and learn how to use them, but do not neglect old fashion things like the phone. Get in touch with people and find out if things are accurate

5. People often use the same usernames for different media platforms, which can be very helpful when finding information

6. Before social networking there was just networking. If you need a contact don’t forget to ask your family, friends or other connections

7. Work with what you have. If you only have a name or a situation, try jigsaw identification or try searching for related key words. For example: #Tunisia + #RIP + “Oh my god”

8. Collaborate. Build good strong relationships; your contacts can tip you off stories that are happening. Also working with other journalists and organisations abroad can be very helpful when sourcing stories

9. People will speak on social media as they would at the pub. So adapt your searches accordingly. For example: #OMG

10. Always credit your sources, unless doing so will put them in danger.  Protection of sources is the most important thing

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