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Reporting Kiev: An interview with Storyful's Alan O'Riordan

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Reporting Kiev: An interview with Storyful's Alan O'Riordan

Storyful was founded in 2010 as a service to help verify social media generated sources and content on behalf of media outlets. The company, acquired for €18 million last December by News Corp, has worked with news organisations ranging from the BBC to Al-Jazeera and The Wall Street Journal.

The company uses a mixture of technology and traditional manual journalism techniques to ascertain the authenticity of torrents of images, Tweets, videos and sources across many social media platforms.

The Editor's Weblog caught up with Storyful journalist Alan O’Riordan, to find out how out how the organisation has been dealing with content verification in the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

O'Riordan highlights the phenomenon of geographically centralised origin of the content in Kiev and points to the authenticity of citizen reporters in the crisis.

EW: What volume of information are you dealing with from Kiev?

AO: The volume is massive… what we find we are dealing with is an explosion of content.

EW: How are you finding reliable sources?

AO: We have a Twitter list that we curate and we know what is on the ground. We do not just repost what could be from anywhere in the world. There is an unverifiability of what is going on out there and we try and isolate what is relevant from the mass. Day to day, we add and subtract to the list of sources we can trust. There is also inhouse technology which we can use. There is much search work that is automatically generated and from that we can take out what is good and find what is usable

EW: Is this particular crisis revealing itself as a watershed for your company?

AO: We have been here before with Hurricane Sandy and with the Boston bombings and with Syria. It is not a watershed particularly. But it is an interesting one in that it is almost all happening in one place. Centred on Independence Square, there is also a readiness to get content out there that is higher than it was in Turkey. The breadth of content is remarkable and comprehensive. Maybe in that sense it is a sign of things to come. People are aware of what is possible and of what is to come. This is how it will happen, this is what it will be like. And to be able to cover (events) journalists will have to pick through what is usable and not, and that is what we have been doing all day.

EW: How reliable are your sources proving to be?

AO: The majority of what we are seeing is pertinent. The question is: is the person who is online, the person who made this video? The posting of misleading stuff with regularity happens more in the U.S. Here (Kiev) re-uploading and copying is more the problem. The question is what is the origin of the person who made this and can we talk to them to verify it, but also to ask them if we have permission to use it. Otherwise we don’t have permission to distribute it. People don’t upload things for negative reasons, they are uploading to share. They have no desire to mislead. People are interested and people are re-uploading. (Our) clients will come to us and say, “Have you seen this video?” We will reply, “Yes we have, but this is the original.” And then we will try and get it out and share it.


William Pimlott


2014-02-21 12:10

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The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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