The verimedia manifesto (first draft)
Good journalism requires more than just a report of events, particularly when it comes to the political, societal or scientific arena. Without checking and documenting sources, without creating context and putting things into perspective, without critically checking statements and spin, it is impossible for readers, listeners and watchers to use media output to their benefit. These are the elements covered by the verimedia manifesto.
- Strive for reproducible accuracy
- Name and identify all relevant sources. Exceptions apply where anonymity is required to protect sources (see “Anonymous sources” below);
- Aim at referencing all sources in a way that enables recipients to identify, and if publicly available, retrieve that source without effort;
- Verify core elements of a piece’s statements with additional sources or – if impossible – check plausibility;
- Separate facts from opinion by identifying both clearly.
- Provide immediate context for your audience
- Put core statements and data into current and historical context to clarify relevance and importance;
- Explain potential consequences;
- Research and quote contradicting evidence or relevant statements.
Here are a few examples of what the above suggestions could mean:
- Mention name and role of a person in a way that the person is identifiable*;
- When quoting scientific publications, mention organization/author(s), journal and include links;
- When drawing from PR statements or similar sources, clearly identify the nature of the source;
- For news agency sources: fully verify content or mark as “unverified”;
- Quote all data source(s) and provide links;
- Accurately transport the content of the original source, e.g.
- don’t distort data by suggestively selecting a certain scale or date range;
- don’t quote out of context.
- Put actions reported on (e.g. scandals, statements, etc.): in context with previous actions of others (e.g. answer to “how normal is this behavior?”)
- For scientific findings or new products, evaluate and discuss relevance, novelty, and contradicting evidence;
- For all content, clarify relevance and possible positive and negative effects for readers;
- Anonymous sources*
Even though it is unavoidable and important to work with anonymous sources in some cases, particularly in investigative journalism, special caution is warranted, by following these rules:
- Identify the nature of the message as in headline/first paragraph (e.g. using “rumor”, “Anonymous Hill source says”)
- Verify status and role of a person using public sources before quoting anonymously;
- Verify facts using other sources or original documents provided by source (including evidence check for tampering);
- Verifying the track record of a source to gauge credibility, and, where possible, include in article;
- Check validity/plausibility of statements with additional, possibly quotable sources;
- Offer an opportunity for comment to key targets affected by the publication, if feasible.
While there is much more room for creative freedom when writing/producing with more depth, the application of the above principles are still relevant, particularly when it comes to identification and validation of sources and the creation of context that becomes the foundation upon which a picture is drawn.
Please help us improve the manifesto
The above is a first draft of the manifesto, and it is by no means perfect yet. Please highlight issues, suggest improvements, and send us your comments. The more feedback we receive, the better verimedia becomes.