Using social media to investigate the unspeakable

By: October 8, 2018
malachy browne new york times

Malachy Browne is a senior visual storyteller with the New York Times. Ahead of Social Media Live, he spoke with Stephen Conmy about social media’s power as an investigative tool for journalism.

Having studied engineering in UCD, Malachy Browne graduated in the late 1990s. “I found work as a programmer on various Y2K projects,” he says. “But I was dabbling in journalism, I always had an interest in it, so I went to UL to study a Masters in International Relations. After that my uncle (Vincent Browne) was setting up Village magazine and I got an opportunity to work on the digital side of that and got to experience the ‘full face’ of campaign journalism.”

Having honed his craft, he went to work with Mark Little on Storyful, a social video verification platform and later moved to Reported.ly before getting the chance to join the New York Times where he now works as a senior visual storyteller.

That’s some career. What’s it like working with the New York Times?

“It’s much bigger than anywhere I’ve ever worked before,” he smiles, “but the first thing I observed when I got here is the calibre of the people who work here.”

Browne will be in Dublin’s RDS on October 25 where he will present at Social Media Live (previously the Social Media Summit).

Social media plays a significant role in what Browne does at the New York Times. He uses it to craft his investigative stories and to verify everything from dates, times and locations to get to the core of an investigation – often in war zones where journalists simply can’t travel to.

“For me, the information I get on social media is another data point when I’m building a story. I’m agnostic about where the information comes from but am never agnostic about the facts.”

If you want to see an example of how Browne uses social media to build a story you should check out the visual investigation he produced called: ‘How Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people’.

At Social Media Live, Browne says he will talk about how digital technology and social media can help investigate the ‘stories behind the stories’, and how social media can be employed to reveal certain facts but also manipulated to distort the truth.

To book your place, go here.

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