As many can attest, stories posted by citizen journalists on social websites like Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube often have inaccuracies. This week, a new service called Storify launched with the goal of vetting that information for professional newsroom use.
During a private test period, reporters from "The Washington Post," NPR, PBS and other outlets used the Storify service to check material. Storify, based in San Francisco, is one of several Web start-ups — including Storyful, Tumblr and Color — that are developing ways to help journalists and others sift through online content and publish the most relevant information.
Citizen journalists, armed with smart phones and digital cameras, often come on the scene of breaking news stories first. Professional journalists are often left to play catch-up — attempting to select reliable sources and provide a context for events.
"We have so many real-time streams now, we're all drowning," Burt Herman, a founder of Storify and a longtime Associated Press reporter, told the "New York Times." "So the idea of Storify is to pick out the most important pieces, amplify them and give them context."
The newspaper reported that Al Jazeera English produced a new talk show, "The Stream," which appeared online last week and will be televised in May. It collects perspectives from social media using Storify. A recent story on the fear of Islam in the United States, for instance, included YouTube videos, Twitter posts and paragraphs from essays on websites and blogs.
"Storify is essentially our script," said Ahmed Shihab Eldin, a producer and host of "The Stream," told the "Times." "We knew we basically needed to capitalize on the reality that the industry is facing, which is that we no longer have exclusivity on sharing and publishing information."
NPR's Andy Carvin used Storify to cover the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, when he realized that the reaction to the event was a story itself. "It quickly evolved into looking at how people were discussing the media coverage surrounding it and its potential political impact," Carvin, senior strategist on NPR's social media desk, told the "Times." "There's a big need for tools that allow people to collect bits of social media context and organize them in some fashion."
The tools are free, but Storify will consider selling ads or charging brands to use the service, Xavier Damman, a Storify founder, told the "Times." Levi's and Samsung have already used it for marketing campaigns.
Herman founded Storify with Damman, who is an engineer. Herman also started Hacks/Hackers, a group for journalists and engineers with chapters worldwide. "We're really trying to put together computer science plus storytelling and journalism to think creatively about how you can blend the two worlds," he told the newspaper.
Khosla Ventures has invested $2 million in Storify.