Connecting with other journalists … virtually

“We are standing on the rubble of the world that was.”

– Maria Ressa

For Philippines journalist and 2018 Time Person of the Year Maria Ressa, life as we knew it before COVID-19 will never be the same again. But she also sees the pandemic as an opportunity to rebuild parts of society.

It’s hard to comprehend Ressa’s optimistic outlook considering the battles she has and continues to endure.

Maria Ressa is the executive editor of news website Rappler and is facing jail time after being charged with cyberlibel – an offence allegedly committed before the law even existed.

“I’m not voluntarily giving up my rights,” Ressa said.

All this as the Philippines government shut down the country’s largest media network in May and introduced a broadly defined anti-terror law.

It allows warrantless arrests and grants authorities the right to detain people without charge, with concerns it will be used to target opponents – including the media.

Ressa was sharing her experiences as part of the 2020 Future News Worldwide Virtual Conference.

I was one of 100 young journalists across different time zones picked to join one big chat room for the conference.

We were given expert advice and had a unique ‘speed dating’ networking opportunity.

We were connected randomly to another participant and had three minutes to chat.

From Hungary to Zimbabwe, I heard from people all over the world about the industry in their country, what drives them and how their country is coping with COVID-19.

Below are some of the invaluable insights and tips given by those who gave speeches and ran workshops as part of the conference.


Multiple speakers criticised social media and the role it plays in spreading misinformation.

One shined a light on spam accounts created to target specific demographics.

Chief executive of The Quint Ritu Kapur said we must “make fact work like fake”.

She said the simplicity and easy language associated with false information, along with its emotion, made it accessible for all.

Kapur recommended we emulate this when reporting to break through the fake.

Head of journalism at NUI Galway Tom Felle said there were four questions to ask ourselves when verifying information.

  1. Provenance – is this the original (and can you find the original)?
  2. Source – who uploaded the content? Speak to the source.
  3. Date – when was the content created?
  4. Location – Where was the content created?

Felle said to be sceptical and stressed the importance of reaching out to the original media source.

He added it was better to be second and right rather than being first and wrong.

A slide from Tom Felle’s presentation.

When trying to verify images and videos look for billboards, car licence plates and points of interest to help narrow down the location and time.

Representatives from the Google News Initiative shared Google tools which can help with verification.

Reverse Image Search – Shows websites which contain the same or similar images.

Fact Check Explorer – A search engine which collates a range of fact checking sources and articles.

Google Fact Check Explorer screenshot.

The whole suite of free Google News Initiative tools is worth checking out.

They range from mapping to data visualisation tools and have easy to follow training guides.

This is a story by TIME Magazine made using Google Earth Studio. Once you’ve had a look go to the Voyager tab to discover more content made this way.


The Quint’s Ritu Kapur also introduced us to her organisation’s fascinating platform, My Report.

My Report has citizens breaking stories, taking advantage of people being everywhere and covering more ground than journalists ever could.

Kapur said people were feeling left out of the news and partnering with the citizens built trust between the journalist and the people.

It also helps to look where no-one else is looking with different voices and areas for stories.

Citizens are trained and given guidance on shooting video if required and write an article for the website. The Quint then makes inquiries before publishing.

Here is one citizen report on bad quarantine conditions in Sonipat.

A slide from Ritu Kapur’s presentation.

This citizen has shared the story of their house flooding as they’re unable to search numbers for help.


There’s no denying we will come across situations in our careers which will leave a profound impact.

Whether it be exposure to death or sexual violence – it’s important to address any trauma we are faced with.

The Dart Centre focuses on ethical reporting on violence, conflict, tragedies and Gavin Rees spoke about resilience and likened it to a tree. 

Just how a tree flexes in strong winds, Rees said resilience was about the ability to adapt to changing environments rather than resisting.

He added it’s important to protect ourselves and our resilience throughout our careers.

“Self-care is not a luxury. It is a responsibility we owe to our work and our contributors – as well as to ourselves,” Rees said.

Following on from this point Rees said being frazzled and burnt out would not serve our work.

So it’s important to not get caught up in an exhausting routine.

I find it helpful to disconnect from my phone after work to unwind, as I feel like most of day is spent on the phone.

Others taking part in the workshop spoke about using yoga as a relaxation technique.

Find something which suits you, stick to it and stay resilient.

The Dart Centre Institute website is a treasure trove of resources and interesting reads and I’d definitely recommend you check it out.

A slide from the presentation by Gavin Rees and Stephen Jukes.