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First Draft moves to the Shorenstein Center

Here’s what we have accomplished in our first two years and what’s ahead

Shorenstein Center

We’re thrilled to announce today that we are officially now housed at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The move has been in the works for months and today we get to shout it from the rooftops of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Shorenstein Center strives to bridge the gap between journalists and scholars, and between them and the public. The rapid changes in the media — particularly with the recent awareness and alarm over mis- and disinformation — makes our partnership well timed. We bring to Shorenstein our expertise in authenticating content that emerges on the social web and a broad coalition of newsroom and academic partners. The Center enables us to connect with an amazing array of scholars, journalists and experts, and we’ll also benefit from the support of an established institution so that we can focus on scaling our work. Thank you to Nicco Mele, the DIrector of the Shorenstein Center for providing us with this opportunity. We’re really excited about what we can achieve together.

First Draft began in July 2016 with nine founding partners, all specializing in social media verification. Jenni Sargent served as the first managing director of the organization. During her tenure, she started the Partner Network and developed CrossCheck, the collaborative journalism project that monitored misinformation during the French election. First Draft is now led by Dr. Claire Wardle who was most recently Research Director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

First Draft has grown to include four full-time employees who are working on the following initiatives in the coming months:

  • Launching our verification training for journalists, a five-unit online course.
  • Publishing a comprehensive report examining the phenomenon, theory and practice of information disorder for the Council of Europe.
  • Reporting our findings from research examining the impact of the CrossCheck French election project.
    Instituting a ‘Train the Trainer’ program.
  • Establishing a collaborative journalism project around the US-midterm election.
  • Holding a Disinformation workshop in partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
  • Working with partners in different countries who want to establish election-monitoring projects.

Here’s a look back at some of our most notable initiatives from the past year:

  • Started the Partner Network, which currently includes 82 Core Partners, 45 Academic Partners and seven Technology Partners. The Network brings together social platforms with global newsrooms and other industry projects, associations, research labs, projects and universities. Partners work together to tackle common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process, improve the experience of eyewitnesses and increase news literacy.
  • Developed CrossCheck, the first collaborative journalism project to fight misinformation online. We brought together 37 newsroom partners in France and the UK to report false, misleading and confusing claims that circulated online in the ten weeks leading up to the French Presidential election. There were 64 reports filed and interest from our French partners to continue the project.
  • Created the first-ever fact check and verification newsroom to fight mis- and disinformation in the snap UK election. We created a temporary newsroom staffed with First Draft social discovery and verification specialists with Full Fact fact checkers and sent two daily emails to newsroom subscribers alerting them to trends emerging online around the election and fabricated or misleading content we were seeing circulate.
  • Established a second fact checking project with Correct!v to cover the German election. We sent one email daily to newsroom subscribers alerting them to news stories that might trend.
  • Launched four websites with First Draft resources added monthly in the Arabic, French, German and Spanish language. We send newsletters monthly alerting subscribers about the latest article, First Draft initiatives and the three best reads on the topic of verification.
  • Supported researchers who wrote “Field Guide To Fake News,” which examined how digital methods, data, tools, techniques and research approaches can be utilised in the service of increasing public understanding of the politics, production, circulation and responses to fabricated content online.
  • Published three handbooks for journalists on “A Journalist’s Guide to Social Sources,” “Copyright Law and Eyewitness Media” and “Handbook 3: Journalism and Vicarious Trauma.”
  • Created quick checklist guides to help people identify the who, where, when and why of eyewitness photos or videos, and launched a companion Chrome extension.
  • Held six partner meetings around the world — London, New York (2), San Francisco, Strasbourg and Hong Kong — to discuss critical issues in newsrooms and classrooms around the topic verification.
  • Co-sponsored MisinfoCon, a two-day February sprint in Boston that brought together a variety of people and disciplines to work toward solutions to solve misinformation.
  • Co-sponsored the Digital Disinformation Forum, a two-day event in Palo Alto, California, in June that kicked off Disinformation Week. The event convened people who work in media and technology companies, political leaders, activists, philanthropists and researchers who brought their expertise to the conversation to approach the topic in a fresh way after months of “fake news” panic.
  • Opened Slack channels to Partners so that they can collaborate to debunk rumors and be aware of online rumors for Rohingya, Myanmar, and the recent hurricanes in the US.

We’ve done this all with a lean staff that responds to ever-changing projects to meet the demands of the moment. Thank you to everyone who has helped us get to this next big chapter at the Shorenstein Center. Some of the core people to thank: Mohamed Adel, Hannah Barrett, Marie Bohner, Hossein Derakhshan, Jen Dev, Nic Dias, Sam Dubberley, Karolina Johansson, Alastair Reid, Aimee Rinehart, Ben Sargent, Jack Sargent, Jenni Sargent, Eoghan Sweeney and our great dev team: Oli, Ollie, Pete and Pete.

Most importantly, a final huge thank you to Steve Grove and Olivia Ma at Google News Lab. They got us all in a room in New York in April 2015 and floated the idea of First Draft.  Since then, their support and enthusiasm, now combined with the same from their global team, has been invaluable.

Onward!

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A project of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, First Draft News is an open-access site that provides practical and ethical guidance in how to find, verify and publish content sourced from the social web.