Partnership with First Draft to Strengthen Students’ Online Verification Skills

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

First Draft, a London-based nonprofit focused on verifying online information, is opening a U.S. bureau at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. In addition to their global work training professional journalists on discovery and verification strategies, First Draft staff will collaborate in the classroom with professors to teach students how to find problematic content online, verify that information, and report on it ethically.

“Being near students really powers and inspires our work,” said Claire Wardle, First Draft executive chair. “They are so enthusiastic about working with social media, and with the journalistic training they receive at the school, we are lucky to have them on our projects.”

Sarah Bartlett, Newmark J-School dean, said having the First Draft staff housed at the school was a unique opportunity to bring modern and innovative verification methods into the classroom. “We’re excited to collaborate with First Draft’s excellent staff on developing curriculum around verification,” she said. “We know our students will benefit.”

First Draft and the Newmark J-School previously partnered during the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections. Through ProPublica’s Electionland, held on election day at the school, First Draft deployed Newmark J-School students to discover problematic online content impacting voters’ ability to cast their ballots. The students were involved in verifying information and reporting on their findings.

Headquartered in London, First Draft is also opening a bureau in Australia at the Centre for Media Transition at the University of Technology Sydney. The Australian and New York bureaus will work closely with the London office to share verification resources, map disinformation networks, and encourage and support cross-border collaboration on CrossCheck International, a website platform developed by First Draft.

In the coming months, First Draft’s New York team, led by Aimee Rinehart, will begin preparing for the 2020 presidential elections by building a collaborative verification network at the local and state level. First Draft staff will also give guest lectures to train students on discovery and verification of online information and the ethics of incorporating their findings about the credibility of information into reporting.

Born in the digital age 12 years ago, the Newmark J-School is the only public graduate school of journalism school in the Northeastern United States. The school has distinguished itself by providing leading-edge journalism and technology training to an inclusive generation of journalists. It is also the only graduate school of journalism with a bilingual program for Spanish speakers and a unique master’s degree program that trains reporters in engagement that puts communities first.

First Draft began in 2015 as a coalition of nine organizations funded by Google News Initiative that focused on verification. It has since grown to include work on the 2017 French election with the award-winning CrossCheck, in the UK and Germany, a 2018 Brazilian election project Comprova, and CrossCheck Nigeria in 2019. A collaboration in Spain, Comprobado, was the first to launch First Draft’s CrossCheck International platform in early April to cover the lead up to the Spanish elections.

For more information:

Aimee Rinehart
Director of Development and Partnerships, First Draft

Geraldine Baum
Assistant Dean for External Affairs, Newmark J-School