BIRN Summer School Day 5: Visual Evidence and Open Source Research

On the fifth day of BIRN’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting, participants were introduced to open source research and the use of visual evidence in investigating reporting.

The fifth day of BIRN’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting started with Meg Kelly and Sarah Cahlan, visual forensics reporters at the Washington Post, talking about how they use visual evidence in their work.

Cahlan and Kelly explained how they obtain information by submitting a public records request, speaking to witnesses, scrubbing social media, searching Google using all sorts of tools, monitoring satellite imagery, asking photographers to share photos and searching mapping software.

Trying to find where a video was recorded, a journalist should examine the visual and look for landmarks, signs, clothes, environmental features and shop names, the two visual forensics reporters advised. When reverse image searching, it’s important to use multiple engines (Google, Bing, Yandex) as they often provide different results, they added.

Cahlan and Kelly also discussed the basics of open source research and presented how they reported on the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, American weapons in Yemen and the January 6, 2021 mob attack on the US Capitol building.

The day ended with the journalists working on pitching cross-border investigative stories, which they will present on the sixth and final day of BIRN’s Summer School on Saturday.