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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • I've been a journalist now since I was about 17,

  • and it's an interesting industry to be in at the moment,

  • because as you all know, there's a huge amount of upheaval

  • going on in media, and most of you probably know this

  • from the business angle, which is that the business model

  • is pretty screwed, and as my grandfather would say,

  • the profits have all been gobbled up by Google.

  • So it's a really interesting time to be a journalist,

  • but the upheaval that I'm interested in is not on the output side.

  • It's on the input side. It's concern with

  • how we get information and how we gather the news.

  • And that's changed, because we've had a huge shift

  • in the balance of power from

  • the news organizations to the audience.

  • And the audience for such a long time was in a position

  • where they didn't have any way of affecting news

  • or making any change. They couldn't really connect.

  • And that's changed irrevocably.

  • My first connection with the news media was

  • in 1984, the BBC had a one-day strike.

  • I wasn't happy. I was angry. I couldn't see my cartoons.

  • So I wrote a letter.

  • And it's a very effective way of ending your hate mail:

  • "Love Markham, Aged 4." Still works.

  • I'm not sure if I had any impact on the one-day strike,

  • but what I do know is that it took them three weeks to get back to me.

  • And that was the round journey. It took that long for anyone

  • to have any impact and get some feedback.

  • And that's changed now because, as journalists,

  • we interact in real time. We're not in a position

  • where the audience is reacting to news.

  • We're reacting to the audience, and we're actually relying on them.

  • They're helping us find the news. They're helping us

  • figure out what is the best angle to take and what is the stuff that they want to hear.

  • So it's a real-time thing. It's much quicker. It's happening

  • on a constant basis, and the journalist is always playing catch up.

  • To give an example of how we rely on the audience,

  • on the 5th of September in Costa Rica, an earthquake hit.

  • It was a 7.6 magnitude. It was fairly big.

  • And 60 seconds is the amount of time it took

  • for it to travel 250 kilometers to Managua.

  • So the ground shook in Managua 60 seconds after it hit the epicenter.

  • Thirty seconds later, the first message went onto Twitter,

  • and this was someone saying "temblor," which means earthquake.

  • So 60 seconds was how long it took

  • for the physical earthquake to travel.

  • Thirty seconds later news of that earthquake had traveled

  • all around the world, instantly. Everyone in the world,

  • hypothetically, had the potential to know that an earthquake

  • was happening in Managua.

  • And that happened because this one person had

  • a documentary instinct, which was to post a status update,

  • which is what we all do now, so if something happens,

  • we put our status update, or we post a photo,

  • we post a video, and it all goes up into the cloud in a constant stream.

  • And what that means is just constant,

  • huge volumes of data going up.

  • It's actually staggering. When you look at the numbers,

  • every minute there are 72 more hours

  • of video on YouTube.

  • So that's, every second, more than an hour of video gets uploaded.

  • And in photos, Instagram, 58 photos are uploaded to Instagram a second.

  • More than three and a half thousand photos go up onto Facebook.

  • So by the time I'm finished talking here, there'll be 864

  • more hours of video on Youtube than there were when I started,

  • and two and a half million more photos on Facebook and Instagram than when I started.

  • So it's an interesting position to be in as a journalist,

  • because we should have access to everything.

  • Any event that happens anywhere in the world, I should be able to know about it

  • pretty much instantaneously, as it happens, for free.

  • And that goes for every single person in this room.

  • The only problem is, when you have that much information,

  • you have to find the good stuff, and that can be

  • incredibly difficult when you're dealing with those volumes.

  • And nowhere was this brought home more than during

  • Hurricane Sandy. So what you had in Hurricane Sandy was

  • a superstorm, the likes of which we hadn't seen for a long time,

  • hitting the iPhone capital of the universe -- (Laughter) --

  • and you got volumes of media like we'd never seen before.

  • And that meant that journalists had to deal with fakes,

  • so we had to deal with old photos that were being reposted.

  • We had to deal with composite images

  • that were merging photos from previous storms.

  • We had to deal with images from films like "The Day After Tomorrow." (Laughter)

  • And we had to deal with images that were so realistic

  • it was nearly difficult to tell if they were real at all.

  • (Laughter)

  • But joking aside, there were images like this one from Instagram

  • which was subjected to a grilling by journalists.

  • They weren't really sure. It was filtered in Instagram.

  • The lighting was questioned. Everything was questioned about it.

  • And it turned out to be true. It was from Avenue C

  • in downtown Manhattan, which was flooded.

  • And the reason that they could tell that it was real

  • was because they could get to the source, and in this case,

  • these guys were New York food bloggers.

  • They were well respected. They were known.

  • So this one wasn't a debunk, it was actually something that they could prove.

  • And that was the job of the journalist. It was filtering all this stuff.

  • And you were, instead of going and finding the information

  • and bringing it back to the reader, you were holding back

  • the stuff that was potentially damaging.

  • And finding the source becomes more and more important --

  • finding the good source -- and Twitter is where most journalists now go.

  • It's like the de facto real-time newswire,

  • if you know how to use it, because there is so much on Twitter.

  • And a good example of how useful it can be

  • but also how difficult was the Egyptian revolution in 2011.

  • As a non-Arabic speaker, as someone who was looking

  • from the outside, from Dublin,

  • Twitter lists, and lists of good sources,

  • people we could establish were credible, were really important.

  • And how do you build a list like that from scratch?

  • Well, it can be quite difficult, but you have to know what to look for.

  • This visualization was done by an Italian academic.

  • He's called André Pannison, and he basically

  • took the Twitter conversation in Tahrir Square

  • on the day that Hosni Mubarak would eventually resign,

  • and the dots you can see are retweets, so when someone

  • retweets a message, a connection is made between two dots,

  • and the more times that message is retweeted by other people,

  • the more you get to see these nodes, these connections being made.

  • And it's an amazing way of visualizing the conversation,

  • but what you get is hints at who is more interesting

  • and who is worth investigating.

  • And as the conversation grew and grew, it became

  • more and more lively, and eventually you were left

  • with this huge, big, rhythmic pointer of this conversation.

  • You could find the nodes, though, and then you went,

  • and you go, "Right, I've got to investigate these people.

  • These are the ones that are obviously making sense.

  • Let's see who they are."

  • Now in the deluge of information, this is where

  • the real-time web gets really interesting for a journalist like myself,

  • because we have more tools than ever

  • to do that kind of investigation.

  • And when you start digging into the sources, you can go

  • further and further than you ever could before.

  • Sometimes you come across a piece of content that

  • is so compelling, you want to use it, you're dying to use it,

  • but you're not 100 percent sure if you can because

  • you don't know if the source is credible.

  • You don't know if it's a scrape. You don't know if it's a re-upload.

  • And you have to do that investigative work.

  • And this video, which I'm going to let run through,

  • was one we discovered a couple of weeks ago.

  • Video: Getting real windy in just a second.

  • (Rain and wind sounds)

  • (Explosion) Oh, shit!

  • Markham Nolan: Okay, so now if you're a news producer, this is something

  • you'd love to run with, because obviously, this is gold.

  • You know? This is a fantastic reaction from someone,

  • very genuine video that they've shot in their back garden.

  • But how do you find if this person, if it's true, if it's faked,

  • or if it's something that's old and that's been reposted?

  • So we set about going to work on this video, and

  • the only thing that we had to go on was the username on the YouTube account.

  • There was only one video posted to that account,

  • and the username was Rita Krill.

  • And we didn't know if Rita existed or if it was a fake name.

  • But we started looking, and we used free Internet tools to do so.

  • The first one was called Spokeo, which allowed us to look for Rita Krills.

  • So we looked all over the U.S. We found them in New York,

  • we found them in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Florida.

  • So we went and we looked for a second free Internet tool

  • called Wolfram Alpha, and we checked the weather reports

  • for the day in which this video had been uploaded,

  • and when we went through all those various cities,

  • we found that in Florida, there were thunderstorms and rain on the day.

  • So we went to the white pages, and we found,

  • we looked through the Rita Krills in the phonebook,

  • and we looked through a couple of different addresses,

  • and that took us to Google Maps, where we found a house.

  • And we found a house with a swimming pool that looked

  • remarkably like Rita's. So we went back to the video,

  • and we had to look for clues that we could cross-reference.

  • So if you look in the video, there's the big umbrella,

  • there's a white lilo in the pool,

  • there are some unusually rounded edges in the swimming pool,

  • and there's two trees in the background.

  • And we went back to Google Maps, and we looked a little bit closer,

  • and sure enough, there's the white lilo,

  • there are the two trees,

  • there's the umbrella. It's actually folded in this photo.

  • Little bit of trickery. And there are the rounded edges on the swimming pool.

  • So we were able to call Rita, clear the video,

  • make sure that it had been shot, and then our clients

  • were delighted because they were able to run it without being worried.

  • Sometimes the search for truth, though,

  • is a little bit less flippant, and it has much greater consequences.

  • Syria has been really interesting for us, because obviously

  • a lot of the time you're trying to debunk stuff that can be

  • potentially war crime evidence, so this is where YouTube

  • actually becomes the most important repository

  • of information about what's going on in the world.

  • So this video, I'm not going to show you the whole thing,

  • because it's quite gruesome, but you'll hear some of the sounds.

  • This is from Hama.

  • Video: (Shouting)

  • And what this video shows, when you watch the whole thing through,

  • is bloody bodies being taken out of a pickup truck

  • and thrown off a bridge.

  • The allegations were that these guys were Muslim Brotherhood

  • and they were throwing Syrian Army officers' bodies

  • off the bridge, and they were cursing and using blasphemous language,

  • and there were lots of counterclaims about who they were,

  • and whether or not they were what the video said it was.

  • So we talked to some sources in Hama who we had been

  • back and forth with on Twitter, and we asked them about this,

  • and the bridge was interesting to us because it was something we could identify.

  • Three different sources said three different things about the bridge.

  • They said, one, the bridge doesn't exist.

  • Another one said the bridge does exist, but it's not in Hama. It's somewhere else.

  • And the third one said, "I think the bridge does exist,

  • but the dam upstream of the bridge was closed,

  • so the river should actually have been dry, so this doesn't make sense."

  • So that was the only one that gave us a clue.

  • We looked through the video for other clues.

  • We saw the distinctive railings, which we could use.

  • We looked at the curbs. The curbs were throwing shadows south,

  • so we could tell the bridge was running east-west across the river.

  • It had black-and-white curbs.

  • As we looked at the river itself, you could see there's

  • a concrete stone on the west side. There's a cloud of blood.

  • That's blood in the river. So the river is flowing

  • south to north. That's what that tells me.

  • And also, as you look away from the bridge,

  • there's a divot on the left-hand side of the bank,

  • and the river narrows.

  • So onto Google Maps we go, and we start

  • looking through literally every single bridge.

  • We go to the dam that we talked about, we start just

  • literally going through every time that road crosses the river,

  • crossing off the bridges that don't match.

  • We're looking for one that crosses east-west.

  • And we get to Hama. We get all the way from the dam

  • to Hama and there's no bridge.