Conflicts such as the war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war have stretched the resources of Finnish newspapers and broadcasters. Unfortunately, such conflicts are likely to remain central to the news agenda in the near future. Contemporary conflicts are frequently documented through images and videos from sources other than professional media. These include bystanders, soldiers and military forces posting on social media, and new types of actors such as military bloggers. Journalists often cannot use such images as they need more time or skills to verify and contextualise them. Consequently, Finnish journalists often have to use images verified by news agencies or other newspapers. Though this is rare, Finnish newspapers have also made mistakes and published images from a different time and location than expected. Studies show what journalists believe would help them: clearer principles or rules about what verification should look like, collaborative culture in executing it, and easy-to-use tools.
In this research project, we develop and test new verification practices that help the media industry use imagery from conflicts. We aim to support journalists so they can choose their information sources and reporting angles themselves and use visual material from digital sources in a timely and accurate manner. In the first stage of the project, we will interview ten journalists and discuss their workflow and what would help them report conflicts better. Based on what we learned about the needs and priorities of journalists, we will build a new technical tool to help journalists with tasks such as identifying the provenance and potential manipulation of images. We will also run an online user community to support the tool’s users and to trial collaborative forms of verification. The project will also produce a scientific paper outlining the potential for new verification practices in Finnish newsrooms and a practical report with recommendations and guidelines.