Peter Bohan — Tales from the Trail: A Salute to Local Reporting

02 Feb 2016
Local reporting uncovers human trafficking in North Dakota

(Image CreditBenjamin Edwards Photo via Forum News Service)

In a year of continued financial turmoil for newspapers, 2015 ended with a special gift from Santa – the movie “Spotlight.” It arrived not just to general acclaim from critics but to rapturous audiences inspired by its tale of courageous journalists overcoming conspiracy, speaking truth to power and producing justice for their community.

“The reports I’m getting from friends all over the country when they go to the theater is that people applaud at the end,” the former Boston Globe editor (and current Washington Post editor)  Marty Baron told Ken Doctor of Nieman Lab at ASNE in November.

It was Baron (portrayed by Liev Schreiber in the film) who smelled a skunk at the powerful Catholic Church in Boston and drove his troops in the Spotlight investigation. It produced a tsunami of carefully documented articles that rocked the community, nation, world – and the U.S. church to its foundations.

“I do hope it sends a signal to the people getting into the field that it’s absolutely critical that we do this kind of work, and that there don’t have to be investigations to the magnitude of this particular one but that it would be holding powerful individuals and powerful entities accountable — and that someone has to do that, and if we don’t do it, quite honestly, nobody will,” Baron said.

That noble mission – being the Voice of the People, the Conscience of the Community – reminds us of what we will be missing when newspapers as we know them go away.

Newsroom staffs have been cut in half or worse in the last decade as readers young and old – especially, young – abandon print for digital. But when the local newspaper no longer casts a snoopy eye over the local community, who will?

“It needs to be done right. That’s what’s really critically important,” Baron told Doctor. “It can’t be done wrong. It needs to be done carefully. It needs to be done with responsibility and care, all of that. It has to be nailed down and airtight because if it isn’t then you have the opposite effect. You undermine people’s confidence rather than help establish it.”

If not your local newspaper, who has the time, the smarts, the staying power, tenacity, courage and independence for such work? Local TV or radio? Local universities? Local individuals? New national digital news outlets and foundations like Pew’s Stateline dip into regional and sometimes local issues. But the local implications for local communities usually lose focus when the target is national readers.

“Governments, businesses – and yes, religious organizations – that operate in secret and without scrutiny can be breeding grounds for corruption,” New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan said in a Dec. 5 column titled ‘The search for local investigative reporting’s future.’ “Clearly, local investigative journalism can’t be allowed to die out, even as local newspapers struggle to survive. The mission is far too important.”

Sullivan, a former award-winning editor at the Buffalo News, added on Dec. 12: “For the good of democracy (and their own survival) news organizations, whether start-up or legacy, must make it a high priority to keep digging – with the public’s interest at heart.”

If the audiences for Spotlight are to be believed, few would disagree with that conclusion. But, so far, that hasn’t changed the economics of newspapers. As a generation of older readers fades and younger readers embrace the brave new world of social media, the outlook for a print universe dependent on subscriptions and advertising alone continues to look bleak.

So in 2015 it was inspiring to see so many local newspapers on the same wavelength with Baron and Sullivan, driving investigative journalism for their communities in the face of budget and staff cutbacks.

Looking around Reuters America customers, I saw lots of stories last year with such impact. These shone their own spotlights on local government, businesses, schools, and institutions both in watchdog investigations and daily coverage of local issues or disasters.

The list goes on. But I did have a favorite: “Trafficked,” a seven-part series by Forum News Service based in Fargo of human trafficking  in sex workers spawned by the Oil Boom in the North Dakota shale patch.

Forum set loose two newspaper reporters and one broadcast reporter for six months, conducting more than 100 interviews in Williston, Minneapolis, Washington DC and other locations. The series, which appeared in January, spurred a raft of new laws in the North Dakota legislature “to offer more support to women who are victims of human trafficking and educate johns who have been busted on the social consequences of hiring prostitutes,”  Forum News Service editor Jeff Beach told me. Forum sponsored standing-room only town halls and showings of its documentary ‘Trafficked’ that kept a spotlight on the issue even as the Bakken oil boom’s population of oil wildcats thinned out over the year as world oil prices crashed.

Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill once said “all politics is local.” For most newspapers, “All news is local” – local news remains dominant for page A1. So kudos to all these papers – and the hundreds of others serving their communities – for keeping lit the lamp of local investigative reporting. A lot more than newspaper economics, as Baron and Sullivan agree, depends on this flame burning bright.


For more information about the on-the-ground local reporting coverage from around the world that reuters provides, please visit us here, where you can sign up for a free 30-day, no-obligation trial by filling out this form.


Automated Sports News Packages are Here!

20 Nov 2015

Since the beginning of this US College Football season, the Reuters Sports team has been in the lab collaborating with Graphiq, a company that specializes in making big data easy to digest.  Now, we are thrilled to share the first output…

Starting this weekend and continuing through to the College Football National Championship, Reuters and Graphiq will be automatically generating sports news packages at the conclusion of each NCAA FBS game—with full length text recaps and hosted graphics to go with them—for any editorial publisher to use in their digital projects, for free

automated sports news packages


While the initial rollout is only NCAA FBS, we plan to use our learnings from the remainder of the season to launch auto-generated news packages in other sports in 2016. We need your help to expand our technology, so please leave your feedback in the comments below. Let us know what you like, what changes you’d like to see, what sports you want to see covered in the future, and anything else you want to tell us.

The packages are available to the public on Open Media Express and existing Media Express subscribers need only to ask their account manager to give them access to the feed. Some stories from earlier this week are already up, so log on today!

The Reuters News Agency has a 160 year tradition of finding the best ways to use technology to deliver more news to our clients, faster, and today we’re adding another chapter to that story. Keep checking the blog for more automated sports content unveilings.  Our partnership with Graphiq will soon help us offer much more for our customers —including a wide variety of hosted graphics that can be accessed via Open Media Express that will go far beyond College Football.

Want to increase your sports coverage? Learn more about Reuters sports news packages here! 


Reuters Panel Explores How Data is Shaking up the Journalistic and Digital Worlds

21 Oct 2015


L-R, Ethan Zuckerman, Vivian Schiller, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, Maurice Tamman and moderator Reginald Chua.

On Oct. 19, influencers from various parts of the media world, along with a packed room of newsmakers and marketing professionals, gathered together for a Reuters Special Event: Informing Society in the Data Revolution. The hot topic of the night, data journalism, sparked a lively panel discussion on how unprecedented amounts of data, rapidly changing technology and individual access to story-telling tools are reshaping news, influencing elections, and transforming the way we as a society gather, process and consume information.  The one-hour talk, moderated by Reginald Chua, executive editor, data & innovation at Reuters, took place at Thomson Reuters’ 3 Times Square headquarters in New York.

Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief, Stephen J. Adler, introduced the panel, and described data journalism as “a very important way of gathering information” that is fast becoming essential to the profession. Said Adler, “A central challenge is to find better ways to harness technology as it changes, to figure out what works, what doesn’t, both to get the data and figure out how to use it.” A further challenge he said is how to apply journalistic standards of accuracy, fairness and solid news judgment to such rapidly changing styles of storytelling.  Maggie Chan Jones, CMO of software maker SAP, the sponsor of the evening’s event, expressed her own personal awe at how much technology has changed over the course of just two presidential elections.  “The American voter has transformed to the digital voter,” she said, adding that when it comes to the election process, the most important thing to today’s data-driven voter is real-time information.

Sharing their vast knowledge, along with points of concerns and excitement, were panelists Stacy-Marie Ishmael, managing editor, Mobile News, Buzzfeed; Vivian Schiller, consultant, formerly head of news, Twitter, president and CEO, NPR; Maurice Tamman, editor in charge, data & computational journalism, Reuters; and Ethan Zuckerman, director, MIT, Center for Civic Media.

Concern over a well-informed, effective citizenry was unanimous among panel members, who each contributed their own unique perspective on the barriers faced by those who distribute the news as well as those who consume it. Schiller, while praising the ubiquity of mobile technology and never-before-seen accessibility of information around the world, won many nods of approval from audience and panel members alike when she pointed out the oft-overlooked fact that finding the right information within that digital ecosystem takes a lot more skill and effort than in the old “lazy” days of turning on the evening news or picking up a newspaper. Epitomizing this, said Schiller, is Twitter: “If you work Twitter, it is spectacular. There is no greater source of news if you have curated who you’re following to an inch of its life. If you haven’t, and you’re new to it, then it’s not giving you the information you need.”

Adding to that thought, Ishmael said, “What I think you have to try harder to find, are things that are worth your time.” For news organizations and platforms like Buzzfeed, which are transitioning into news providers, transparency on where information comes from is crucial, Ishmael said. “Vox gets a lot criticism for explaining things to people, but it’s actually quite refreshing.”

Perhaps the greatest concern keeping panelists up at night is the great echo chamber of information that peer-generated newsfeeds and decision-making algorithms seem to invite. “Most of us have a very strong tendency towards homophily, towards walking with birds of a feather,” observed Zuckerman, adding that what his friends are paying attention to, to a large extent is what he’s paying attention to. And while it may be easy to curate what one reads on Twitter, Zuckerman noted that curating a circle of Friends on Facebook was a lot harder. To which Ishmael replied dryly, “Get more interesting friends.”

Facebook humor aside, panel members’ concern over the mission of professional news organizations to serve the public interest were very real. Said Maurice Tamman of Reuters, “I think the problem is because we can’t find a way to make money quite frankly, that we are ceding our place within the social contract to collective intelligence and algorithms.And I’m uncomfortable with that.” Even more discomforting to Tamman is what he sees as the gradual eclipse of empirical-based journalism by social media, i.e. the persuasion of opinion over fact. Said Tamman, “The biggest joke on the part of the debates was people sitting around, ‘Well, on Twitter, Bernie won.’ Bernie didn’t win, we know that! Come on, let’s not kid ourselves!”

Rounding out an engaging conversation that everyone in attendance seemed to enjoy, Chua asked the panel what concerned and excited them most about the data journalism landscape. In reply to the latter portion of Chua’s question, the most hopeful response came from Zuckerman, “My hope, my ‘the best of times’, is that we are seeing people able to come together, organize, share information, do extraordinary things as citizens coordinating our lives. And that is potentially incredible politically powerful and I hope over the next 10 years that we will see that flower and branch.”

By Anne Marie Lee

Global MMA News (GMN) Content Available For Free Via Reuters

06 Oct 2015

Russian MMA phenomenon Marat Gafurov crowned Interim ONE Featherweight World ChampionGlobal MMA News (GMN) and Reuters today announced that select breaking news and feature articles will be free for editorial use by digital publishers via Reuters platforms.  As the exclusive Mixed Martial Arts news contributor to Reuters Media Express, GMN will deliver breaking news on events, fight cards, in-depth features, exclusive interviews with star athletes, and commentary that covers the burgeoning MMA scene.  The very first feature from GMN is now available:


You can view it here

Any digital publisher can view and download Global MMA News content from the dedicated GMN channel on Open Media Express:

For inquiries on how to access Open Media Express:

About Global MMA News:

GLOBAL MMA NEWS (GMN) is the premier source for the most updated news on the development of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the world. Focused primarily on the rapidly growing Asian MMA scene, our team of experienced journalists is embedded across the region to provide real-time news and features suitable for MMA fans and mainstream audiences alike.

logo-Global_MMA_News-400x400px (1)

Start Your Engines. Free Content Is Coming With Sports Desk Direct.

18 Sep 2015

Singapore Grand Prix 2015Anyone following Reuters (or anyone who has read the last post) knows that we have been upping our game when it comes to using our know-how and platforms to provide customized editorial and content marketing solutions.

In addition to the launch of Open Media Express, we have now launched a service called Sports Desk Direct aimed at helping sports teams and leagues to reach out to their global fan bases by carrying their content on Reuters platforms.

This weekend will be a great example of what this new service can offer as we deliver the sights and sounds leading up to the Singapore Grand Prix. The race itself is surrounded by a dazzling array of A-List Music Concerts, autograph signings, press conferences, and fan events. Reuters will be delivering photography from these events via Media Express. This content is free for any digital publisher that wants to make use of them for editorial purposes.

You can access the Singapore Grand Prix content here or by clicking on the “Contributors” tab in Media Express.

Singapore Grand Prix 2015Sports Desk Direct has an exciting and diverse lineup of new customers coming online soon, so stay tuned for much more.  If you have any questions at all about the service, please feel free to reach out to me anytime.

Rob Schack

Global Head of Sports & Strategic Projects

Reuters Can Do It – An Interview With Munira Ibrahim, Global Head of Custom Video Solutions

16 Sep 2015

Elizabeth Koraca - actionElizabeth Koraca

There’s much more to Reuters than the traditional wire service. As Global Head of Custom Video Solutions at Reuters News Agency, Munira Ibrahim manages three different departments within content solutions which help agency clients to produce exclusive content, and also produce content for broadcasters and brands.

We asked her whether she is tapping into a growing market.

I come from a broadcast background, so when I arrived at Reuters I was impressed by the infrastructure but realised that we need to further enhance it to make it more customer centric, as well as hire more broadcast journalists. I love what I do here at Reuters. It’s a brand that has credibility around the world and that can open so many doors for us, and our partners too. The reason we think there is a growing market for producing bespoke content is because of the demand for international coverage. Broadcasters come to Reuters and we can produce content or cover events or breaking news on their behalf, while utilising our access and global infrastructure to do so. We produce content in multiple languages, so we work with a variety of clients across the globe and we produce lives, updates from various locations, or fully finished programmes. Reuters has nearly 200 locations around the globe, so we can leverage this infrastructure. If there’s a breaking news story in Tunisia and our client doesn’t have a presence there, we can use a Reuters journalist to report live for our clients. That saves them money and we’re ensuring that our content and our people are being effectively utilised.

How does what you’re doing differ from the traditional TV wire service that you have?

Reuters World News service (the TV wire) is extensive raw footage, with video constantly arriving from our video journalists around the world, covering a whole range of topics and events. It is available to all clients in a non-customised form. Custom Video Solutions edits, packages and customises content for the client. For example, Kimberley Lim’s package for a client won’t be seen anywhere else (Kimberley heads up our team in London). This is different to the World News Service content where the broadcaster or media publisher will take the video and package it as their own. In most cases we commission new content specifically for our clients.

Kim - 031

Kimberley Lim

Do those clients know what they actually want?

It varies. Sometimes they have a very specific need and know exactly where they want to go but just don’t have the resources to do it. One of the big projects this year was a channel who had the studios and systems in place, but didn’t quite have the people in place to actually get going. So we launched the channel for them and that meant flying out 19 people who had the expertise to get the programme on air, on time and on budget. We continue to produce an additional one and a half hours’ worth of programming from London, which enhances their programming schedule. We built a new studio for the client and leveraged Reuters resources to help them launch the channel. On another occasion it was a very specific brief: “We need to have a live news and market update from these very specific locations, can you do that?” Our answer was “Yes, we can.”

Where does editorial control lie?

Editorial control remains with Reuters journalists: we abide by the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. Everything we report is balanced, objective and unbiased. We adhere to the Trust Principles at all times, but if the client decides they don’t want to broadcast a particular piece of content, they can make that choice. We also have to follow our editorial guidelines. This makes us stronger because people know what Reuters stands for, it gives us and our clients credibility. There are some broadcasters who specifically want to work with us as it will give their news operations further credibility: because it’s the Reuters team producing the content. I think the only time that we’ve had challenges is with coverage of protests. We had to say: “Unfortunately this is it. This is how the rest of the world is reporting it. This is how we’re going to report it. You can choose not to air it.” And they didn’t. People take us seriously. For me it’s a must that we have to comply with the editorial integrity guidelines.

Does the Reuters brand appear on all work?

It varies. It really does depend on the client. Some clients want to utilise the Reuters brand, while others have their own branding. We are able to give clients a choice because the content we deliver is in line with the Trust Principles.

So if I wanted to set up an international TV news station, I could come to you?

Yes, and we’ve already done this. We offer end-to-end solutions, from the very first stages of building studios and setting up technical infrastructure, to training, branding and enhancing coverage through Reuters News Service and custom programming. A couple of weeks ago I met with someone who wanted to launch a TV channel but didn’t quite know how to go about it. Maybe they’ll use our services, but in any case it starts a conversation, it’s a door opener. Even if it doesn’t lead to us launching the channel, hopefully it will lead to us providing content for them. But mostly it is about supporting our existing clients, enabling them to do things more cost-effectively while improving their coverage and programming. One example is COP21, the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. We can support our broadcast clients by providing custom content for them so that they don’t need to send teams of people to cover the event. Another example is a client who sent over 200 staff out to the World Cup, but still commissioned us to do a series in the run-up to it. There’s a lot that the Custom Video Solutions team can do to help broadcasters, from new startups to established partners, there is a plethora of ways we can help them.

So is Reuters becoming a production company?

Yes, absolutely, but the difference is that we have video teams and bureaux around the world that we are able to utilise, passing on our cost-effectiveness to clients. We don’t need to fly people here there and everywhere, as the chances are we already have a team on the ground. Therefore it’s more cost-effective for us to do it than a production house, and clients have confidence in our quality and expertise. Additionally, because we already have people there, we can utilise their local expertise and the global recognition of the Reuters brand to gain access to events and high profile personalities.

Where’s the biggest growth?

This year as well as last, the biggest growth has been our work with broadcast clients. Additionally there are opportunities with online publishers. This is something that we haven’t actively gone to market with yet, but we are starting to do so this year. We’re providing video coverage that they can’t necessarily gather themselves.

How do you make your content fit in with the rest of clients’ programming?

It’s constant engagement, which we encourage. We work closely with our clients because we need to understand the context of the programming to ensure the output is relevant to the audience. If we are working with a TV station we often have somebody stationed there as our liaison point so that we understand exactly what they are trying to do.

Matt - studio2

Matt Gooderick

What’s your message to broadcasters suffering budget cuts?

We’ve redefined the news agency to better serve broadcasters going through these exact problems. There are a whole host of services and solutions utilising the Reuters network and infrastructure, that our clients can take advantage of. If you have challenges ask us, challenge us. Let us come back to you with a cost-effective solution.

What changes do you see ahead?

We are solutions orientated but as broadcasters are more than just TV now, we also need to think about content for online. I think it’s going to be more graphics-based and focused on shareable content. People want to have multiple views and like to get their news in bitesized chunks. That’s going to be the challenge: how will we deliver to multiple clients in all the different formats that they need to engage with their audiences on multiple platforms. One of the challenges we have is that the broadcasters we work with differ greatly in terms of how far they have progressed and how their audiences engage with content and consume news. However, with our global presence we understand the needs of a given locality and therefore we’re able to tailor solutions that meet their requirements.

Could an organisation like the Huffington Post become a competitor to established broadcasters through a partnership with you?

International online publishers are already competing with established broadcasters. For example, they are equipping their journalists with iPhones to deliver video content. Online publishers partner with us for the quality and breadth of our global coverage and because we have journalists and infrastructure all over the world: the same reason that broadcast channels partner with us.

Munira Ibrahim, thank you.

This interview first appeared in Channel magazine and is published here with their kind agreement. You can view their article here



Sometimes it gets weird at Reuters…..

21 Aug 2015

After 17 years at Reuters, I recently became the Global Head of Sports and Strategic Products for the Reuters News Agency. My job is focused on making sure that Reuters is able to deliver the raw materials that help thousands of publishers cover the sports world for their audiences.  I’m very proud to be helping Reuters carry a legacy that started well over a century ago, delivering world class coverage of the biggest sporting events.  And yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.

Of course the vast majority of our attention is paid to the most popular and largest sporting events, but it’s also important for our customers to have access to a wide breadth of coverage.  We were reminded of this recently, when the International Olympic Committee recognized Ultimate Frisbee as a sport, putting it on a path towards inclusion in a future Olympic event.

That decision also helped inspire this post.  You see, one unexpected side effect of my new role is a sudden urge to learn about the lesser known sports Reuters has covered, and then, against their will, force anyone within listening distance to learn about them too.

For instance, did you know about our Elephant Polo coverage?  You might have never seen it, but you can guess what it is.

How about Korfball? No idea right? Well Korfball is actually too main stream for me to get into here.

Underwater Ice Hockey? You’re probably thinking of Underwater Hockey. Totally different sport. Seriously. You’ll see.

Because those in the office here in Times Square have started giving me a wide berth for fear of another lecture on the more obscure rules of a Sauna Marathon, I’m taking to the internet to show off how much I’ve learned.  So without further delay, in ascending order, here are the 7 sports I’m rooting for to become the next Ultimate Frisbee:

Elephant Polo

Here it is. The “biggest sport in the world” doesn’t really need much explanation.

A player from PricewaterhouseCoopers Team, challenges players from the Audemars Piguet Team, during the opening match of 11th King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Hua-HinFootgolf

Let’s start this nice and easy.  You know Football.  You know Golf.  Just put them together and you have Footgolf.  Put away the clubs, widen the holes, break out the soccer ball and kick.

Patrick Wooten holds the flag as his son Thomas misses his putt on the second half of the FootGolf course at Largo Golf Course in Largo, Florida*Censored*

There is really enough material here for a whole other blog post (but by now we all know that’s not happening).  Apparently you can pretty much turn any sport into a new sport by simply shedding the uniform. Reuters has covered everything from Naked Bike Riding, to the World Pole Dancing Championships to something called the “Bare Buns Run”.  We’re keeping it family friendly here, but if you’re a fan of The Wider Image, feel free to do your own research into Sauna Marathons. I guarantee you will learn something.

Spanish fans react while watching the 2010 World Cup match between Spain and Switzerland, in MadridToe Wrestling

You know, like arm wrestling, except with your toes. Legend has it that this idea was born in the pub after a tough World Cup loss, where two men wanted England to become world champion at something, so they invented this sport.  Where else can one root for an athlete known as “The Toeminator”?

Rebecca Birch wins the ladies section of the World Toe Wrestling championships in AshbourneExtreme Ironing

And just about now is when I would warn you it’s about to get weird.  Participants in Extreme Ironing compete to successfully iron their clothes in the most awkward situations to score points from the judges. Have you ever seen a man iron clothes balanced on the peak of a mountain? How about while base jumping? No? I say you can hardly call yourself an educated sports fan until you’ve experienced the thrill and suspense of extreme chores.


We all know Underwater Hockey is just hockey played at the bottom of a pool.  Well this is Underwater ICE Hockey.  In 10 minute periods, and without the use of scuba tanks, in obviously freezing cold water, the teams play hockey with a puck floating against the bottom of the rink. Can we still call Gretzky “The Great One” if he only played on one side of the ice?  But wait, it gets weirder…

Kiehl of team Germany I dives during a match at the Underwater ice hockey Championships in lake WeissenseeChess Boxing

Finally, my very favorite. Combatants take turns playing rounds of chess and fighting rounds of boxing. Alternating until there’s a checkmate… or a knockout.  I’m really hoping for a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch following this format. How is this not more popular?

Sirci of Italy competes against Russia's Sazhin during their heavyweight World Championship chessboxing match in Moscow

Well that wraps up a view into the lighter side of the job here. Believe it or not, there is quite a bit more in the archives to tell you about, but I just found an archive video from the 1987 World Cheese Rolling Championships …

Rob Schack, Global Head of Sports & Strategic Projects

Photographer credits: Sukree Sukplang, Scott Audette, Susana Vera, Darren Staples, Miro Kuzmanovic, Michael Dalder, Maxim Shemetov

Visit Reuters Pictures to browse and license photography from around the globe.

Peter Bohan – Tales from the Trail: A Little Bird Told Me

24 Jul 2015


In newsrooms around the country, it’s an old saying: “If your mother says she loves you – check it out.”

An age-old truth – you are only as good as your source.

Bedrock journalism. Good to remember as the social media universe floods us with rumors and becomes a playground for hackers.

Social media is rapidly becoming the channel for news consumers with mobile devices.

“Twitter wants to become your go-to source for news” says one recent article while a July 14 Pew Report “The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook” finds that “that clear majorities of Twitter (63 percent) and Facebook users (63 percent) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.”

Mainstream traditional media already Tweet and post their own stories. But Facebook and Twitter are also becoming sources for mainstream media via Tweets and posts. Tweets are sprouting up regularly as sourcing on TV and radio.

That’s the danger zone: if your Twitter says she loves you, check it out.

A feed of Tweets should never be more than a tip wire – and a “live” wire, as in 1,000 volts.

Hoaxers are more active than ever. And hackers – from hoaxers to spoofers, from identity thieves to money launderers, from government spies to terrorist groups – are finding the water fine in the social media universe.

At the other end of a “county news release” may be the North Koreans or the Syrian Electronic Army. Or my own new favorite: Russia’s Internet Research Company.

Sept. 11, 2014. News of a toxic plume at a Columbia Chemicals plant in Louisiana began with a morning text message to a local resident and was spread quickly as “hundreds of Twitter accounts were documenting a disaster right down the road” and “dozens of journalists, media outlets and politicians, from Louisiana to New York City, found their Twitter accounts inundated with messages about the disaster.” Islamic State was soon being rumored as behind the attack.

All fake, according to the New York Times: the handwork of crafty Russians.

“From a nondescript office building in St Petersburg, an army of well-paid ‘trolls’ has tried to wreak havoc all around the internet – and in real-life American communities,” said the Times in its June 2 article “The Agency.”

Good lord: is it that easy to pull off another War of the Worlds, as Orson Welles did?

Well, yes. And how about one a day?

May 23, 2015: Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, an African American investigating alleged abuses by cops after the death in custody of black youth Freddie Gray, says her official work twitter account was hacked – which she announces on her private Twitter account. She does not give details. But her office later denies to Megyn Kelly of FOX News that Mosby “favorited” a racially charged tweet and another one calling the six Baltimore cops charged in the Freddie Gray case “thugs.” The local prosecutor later told Kelly that both Mosby Twitter accounts had been hacked.

The point is that hackers are drilling down more into media sources, not just into media.

Do you think you –or your Twittering sources – are protected?

“To a cyber expert, traditional antivirus protection offers the hacking equivalent of being able to repel a musket ball when today’s villains are firing AK-47’s,” notes Fortune in its fine portrait this month of the devastating attack on Sony Pictures.

It’s not just corporates or government agencies being hacked. It’s the whole expanding Twitterverse.

No one is more aware of this than Twitter. Their hacking team is at and includes their handy how-to triage for victims.

So does this mean we roll back the clock and ignore social media if we want the facts?

Nope. The genie is out of the bottle. Elvis has left the building.

But as journalists and publishers it means we must use Twitter and other social media – not let them use us.

Consider the source. Load up the salt shakers. Pinch early and often.

Be like the Homeland Security official in Louisiana called by the resident in that toxic plume scare last September: “He hadn’t heard of any chemical release that morning,” the Times said. “In fact, he hadn’t even heard of Columbia Chemical. St. Mary Parish had a Columbian Chemicals plant office.”

Saved by the “n” and the “s” — and a good dose of salt.

Twitter or no Twitter: Always let the facts stand in the way of a good story.


Peter Bohan was a Reuters journalist for 30 years before becoming Executive Director of Reuters America Service, a product aimed at U.S. newspapers, web sites and broadcasters as an alternative to The Associated Press. Peter – Midwest Bureau Chief at the time – built the service starting in 2010 in tests with Tribune Company, which  became the anchor client for RAST in 2011. Peter spends more time than anyone working with U.S. newspapers to see how Reuters can address their needs.

Reuters-TIMA Covering the International Conference on Iraq and Syria

16 Jun 2015

The team at Reuters-TIMA were preparing to cover the international conference on the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, due to be held in Paris on Tuesday 2nd June. The last such summit was held in Paris in September 2014 and saw representatives from around 30 countries and international organisations meet to come up with a strategy to combat ISIS group which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria. Of the 60-plus nations who joined the international coalition against ISIS nine months ago, 24 were to be represented in Paris on Tuesday in the meeting co-chaired by Laurent Fabius, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and John Kerry.

Live position  live in full swing! (2)

However, the Sunday before, doubts were cast as to whether the meeting would still go ahead as it was announced that John Kerry had broken his leg in an cycling accident. It was later confirmed that the meeting would go ahead as planned as Kerry would be attending the meeting remotely via telephone. Reuters-TIMA confirmed plans for deployment, and the engineer and SNG made their way to Paris overnight from Montpellier ready to meet staff from the TIMA Paris office the following day.

Tuesday 2nd June 2015

Anticipating a lot of media interest, we arrive bright and early at the French Ministry of Foreign affairs, otherwise known as the Quai D’Orsay, and are among the first to park and set up our live position. We get an ideal spot in front of the gates of the Quai D’Orsay – indeed, “the early bird catches the worm”!

As the morning goes on, more crews arrive and set up around us. There are reporters from all over the world covering the event – Russia, Germany, Spain, France, the United States, the Middle East among others. The Quai D’Orsay is a hive of activity with ministers coming and going, sirens whirring, horse guards parading… the atmosphere is alive and we are set up in the midst of all the action.

Despite being hindered by the gusty winds threatening to knock over our kit, we get ready for the live with Al Hurra, as a request comes in from Dubai TV for the same time slot. Luckily we have the means to be able to make the necessary adjustments, and work quickly to make our anticipated single path operation a dual path one to accommodate their request. All is well with the HD dual uplink as Al Hurra and Dubai TV take their reporters live for their lunchtime bulletins. (more…)

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