Agence France Presse has built on its long experience in investigative journalism and fact-checking to create an online training course in digital journalism skills and self-protection that will launch this week in the first initiative of its kind by the French news agency.
“What we really like about this training is the fact that it really is easy access for all journalists: it’s for young and old,” Sophie Nicholson, deputy chief editor of AFP Fact Check in Paris, told me in an interview. “We’ve tried to create something that’s definitely not a nerdy thing for fact checking. We wanted to make it mainstream because these are basic [in] journalism today.”
The AFP Digital Investigation Techniques site launched on June 23. The project is funded by the Google News Initiative.
Journalists anywhere can register on the site and go through basic, intermediate, and more advanced techniques and earn an AFP certificate. The skills include search techniques to verify images, finding archived material, and tracking down the origin of social media posts. The site is a public asset built on the news agency’s own training and experience in investigative journalism, verification, and an increasing role in fact-checking, some supported by grants from Facebook.
“We started [AFP Fact Check] in 2017, working on digital investigations, and fact-checking, which at the time was really niche and really nerdy and not really the thing that that many people in the newsroom were looking at,” Nicholson said. “We started learning just like basic skills for digital reporting. It’s really a lot of the stuff that we train the people on in our team: digital skills. It’s like the basics of searching efficiently, finding the origin of pictures and videos. It has all the tools and techniques — the essentials.”
Critically, the site also offers techniques and advice on how journalists can protect their identity, improve their security online, and deal with online harassment.
“It’s also about staying safe online when you’re investigating things online,” she said. “As you go through the course, you’re checking where you’re appearing online, making sure that your passwords are safe because everyone knows you need to do those things. The other bit is about anticipating harassment because we’re really aware here at AFP that it’s not enough to react to it, we need processes in place to tell people how to anticipate things.”
The site reflects the new reality in journalism: that once specialist techniques of verification that groups like Bellingcat or specialist fact-checkers have used are now everyday techniques. In a world where errors and misinformation spread instantly, all journalists need these skills. That includes me, and I will do the course myself to bone up on skills that have gone rusty.
AFP will launch the site at the Global Fact Check conference in Oslo later this week.
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