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REVEAL | January 18, 2019

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Interview with Meike Richter, NDR

Interview with Meike Richter, NDR
Jochen Spangenberg

How do journalists verify content they find in Social Networks? What are current challenges and requirements? Which solutions are already deployed? We wanted to find out and conducted a number of interviews with journalists. This one is with Meike Richter from German public service broadcaster NDR.

 

In order to find out how journalists work with Social Media we talked to Meike Richter of NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk), one of Germany’s public service broadcasters. Meike is a Social Media expert and helps editorial departments to find the right Social Media strategy. She also trains journalists in the usage of Social Networks and related content. Meike knows of both pitfalls as well as opportunities, and how to get the best out of content residing in Social Networks. Hence we are grateful that she found the time to talk to us.

Jochen Spangenberg: Which Social Networks do you use professionally on a more or less regular basis?

Meike Richter: I use Twitter and Facebook daily, YouTube and Blogs several times a week. When verifying content, I check all the other networks too, like Google+, Instagram and business networks.

J.S.: Which Social Networks do you use for what?

M.R.: I use Twitter mainly professionally and Facebook more for private purposes. Twitter is great for finding out about breaking news and topics of interest.

Professional use of Social Media

J.S.: Can you tell us more about your professional usage of Social Networks, or especially Twitter in your case?

M.R.: Twitter is the ideal platform for finding out about stories, events or topics of interest. I have a very good network, meaning I am connected to people who post information that is of interest to me, such as specialist topics, ranging from breaking news to things such as Internet policies.

All the people I follow, about 800 in total, have been carefully selected. I follow many international journalists, activists and people who are experts for certain issues. This way, I am informed in a very concise and timely manner about topics and issues that interest me.

I start the day reading my Twitter timeline and, in doing so, I feel extremely well informed about what is going on, what requires further attention and what I follow up. I also re-tweet lots of stories to my followers, commenting on them. When there are topics or events that could be of interest to our editorial department, I forward them for follow-ups, so they can decide whether they want to cover this in more detail. In a way, Twitter for me is what newspapers used to be years ago. But instead of getting a predominantly German focus, I now have one that is more international. And I get great local news about my hometown. Of course, I notice early when stories start developing.

J.S.: Anything else you find useful in this context?

M.R.: Twitter lists are very useful. I put up lists for certain topics; e.g. people who are involved with an election and tweet about it. Lists can be monitored pretty nicely with tools such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. Another very important aid is the Twitter search functionality. This allows me to search for specific topics, periods, or tweets from a particular region and so on.

Verification of Social Media content

J.S.: How do you verify content you find in Social Networks, and what is important in this context?

M.R.: You get the best research results when you follow classic research rules. The most important thing is checking the account owners. That means finding out who is behind a Social Network account. I always do that before anyone makes it into my lists or people I follow. This way, I primarily have people in my network I either know personally and trust, or who are connected to people or organizations I trust. There are many journalists and people who are experts for a certain issue or topic among the people I follow – people who have proven to be reliable and trustworthy in the past. Of course, there is always “good old Google”, Denic and WHOIS that can be used in the verification process and when it comes to checking sources.

J.S.: What do you find most useful for the verification of Social Media content?

M.R.: I don’t use tools primarily, but have a really close look at the contributor. I check their previous activities and to whom they are connected. I try to find out about their identity, their location and for example whether he or she has a website, who has registered the website and so on. I do all these checks before I use any tool. The Google Image Search is great for verifying images.

J.S.: If you had a wish concerning Social Media verification and dealing with related content, what would that be?

M.R.: I would find it really useful if I could see instantly how a story has spread. By that I mean finding out quickly who first posted or reported about something such as an event or occurrence. Then, a tool that provides some credibility score about contributors would be interesting. There is Klout.com, but it’s not transparent on what basis the score is calculated.

J.S.: What do you regard as the biggest obstacle when it comes to verifying Social Media content?

M.R.: It’s time-consuming, but it needs to be done. There’s no way around it!

J.S.: Any advice you would give us, also based on your experience as a trainer?

M.R.: In a newsroom or with organizations involved in information gathering and information dissemination, there should always be someone who is an expert in dealing with Social Networks, working as a “story spotter”. This person should feed others with information about what is happening. He or she should unearth leads that are worth pursuing or worth investigating further in order to possibly turn them into a story.

“No tool can replace journalistic practices …”

J.S.: Anything else you would like to share with us?

M.R.: No tool can replace journalistic practices such as proper fact checking. Tools can merely assist – and do so in a useful way, if used knowingly.

There are still many journalists out there who do not yet use Social Media. And this despite it offering so many great opportunities, like access to sources and so on. I regard this as a serious issue in today’s world of journalism. It happens that journalists try to figure out how Twitter works – during a breaking news situation. This is not good for accurate reporting. Journalists will get far better results when they are skilled and trained in Social Media.

Thank you very much for your time and talking to us!

 

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More interviews we conducted as part of our REVEAL work are just a click away:

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