Social Media Reporting Tools

At the APME NYC NewsTrain workshop June 6-7, 2013, Mandy Jenkins, then of Project Thunderdome, shared tips and tools on using social media to find reporting sources, as well as how to fact-check and curate social media to augment coverage.

Before News Breaks

  • Be engaged in the social media community before disaster strikes
  • Build Twitter lists of key contacts (everyone in your newsroom, local fire/police/EMS)
  • Have a plan for when you can’t plan

When News Breaks

Remember social media provides a tip, not the full story. Treat it like you would treat the random person who calls your newsroom. 

  • Open many keyword searches: cast a wide net, keep lots of tabs open and search many different keyword combinations
  • Monitor key Twitter lists
  • Build news lists to share
  • Have a reporter or editor start tweeting live
  • Find sources quickly on Twitter, but make sure they are an actual witness and ask them to call in and speak with a specific reporter


Content Search Tools

Location Searches

  • Mobile app that shows public tweets, Foursquare check-ins and Facebook check-ins on a map
  • Geofeedia: Premium gelocation search tool
  • Foursquare: Find people and where they've checked in
  • Mappeo: Search YouTube videos by their location

Crowdsourcing Tools

  • Google Docs: Create public forums, surveys and other shareable documents
  • MapaList: Create an automatic map from a Google spreadsheet and form
  • Soundcloud: Record, upload, share and contribute audio files

Curation Tools

  • Diigo: Save links of any sort to access from anywhere, anytime
  • Storyify: Compile tweets, Youtube videos, links, social photos, text and more into stories you can embed on your website
  • Timeline: Arrange text, images, videos, tweets and more into an embeddable timeline out of Google spreadsheets
  • RebelMouse: Create always-updating, embeddable section fronts around topics or events using social accounts, social searches and other feeds
  • NewHive: Build visually compelling collections of related media for an embeddable and original alternative to a standard story package

When You Find a Source

Connect with eyewitnesses

  • Get their contact information so you aren’t just among the masses bugging them on social media
  • Follow who you reach out to on Twitter. In addition to tracking their tweets, this is important so they have the ability to send you a private message
  • Call or have them meet staff on site
  • Verify, verify, verify. Always ask:
    • Is it true?
    • Who is this source?
    • How can they know what they know?
  • Location: Make sure that it’s physically possible

Check the Sources Credibility

  • See when the account was created
  • Do they have a photo/bio?
  • Do they follow others? Are they followed?
  • How often do they update?
  • Google the name/username
  • Check the History: All My Tweets

Follow up on the Tip 

  • Ask for a phone number and call them
  • Was it witnessed first-hand?
  • What happened? How? When?
  • Who else has this information?

Check the Information Credibility 

  • Check earlier updates. Was there any lead up?
  • Are others saying the same things?

Evaluate your Options 

  • How urgent is this information? How important?
  • Is it worth the risk if I’m wrong?


Photo Verification Tools

Does the Location add up?

  • Reference locations against Google Earth and Google Streetview
  • Examine weather reports and shadows at that date/time
  • Check clothes, buildings, license plates against locations
  • Is the language correct?

Verifying the Source

  • Review the user’s upload history
  • Talk to the photographer
  • Ask for images taken directly before and after