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Could Dataminr Be a Journalist’s New Best Friend?

Journalism school professors may cling to the oft-repeated adage that it’s better to be right than be first. News organizations battling for relevance in the digital age, however, may well be striving to embrace both speed and accuracy.

Enter Dataminr for News — a service piloted at CNN that was developed to inform journalists of emerging news posted on Twitter in real time. CEO and founder Ted Bailey explained in a launch announcement that the service helps journalists in “detecting specific patterns and information in infancy of new events and new information breaking on Twitter and being able to ascertain relevancy, significance, importance of them.”

When Dataminr for News detects events, reporters are immediately informed on their desktop. They also have access to deep analytics into who’s behind an event, who broke the news, what type of source they are, and so forth. Dataminr for News is expected to be available more broadly this year, though the cost hasn’t yet been disclosed.

Scraping data for information is nothing new. Apps and tools are available to help users find influencers and read emerging news in a specific industry , to collect and publish public social media updates, or to stay informed about trending topics.

“A lot of companies are able to mine data from Twitter to instantly get a snapshot of how people feel. The ability to apply that to the news and journalism might be pretty interesting,” said David Cohn, Director of News at innovative mobile news app Circa.

A natural disaster is one example. “If all of a sudden you see a large number of people in a geographic location all use the word earthquake within 30 seconds of each other, that’s a legitimate way to surface that there was a news event that happened in real time, instead of waiting for the geological union to come out and say it,” he explained. And although he hasn’t delved into Dataminr himself, Cohn likens it to having very large ears out in the world, allowing a media organization to surface things that are happening.

But could using Dataminr, an algorithm-based service, lead to reporting rife with errors, based on rumors and hearsay rather than actual news?

“The data is real, but any news organization can misinterpret the data, and that is the real challenge, and something they have of be aware of,” says Cohn.

News reporters will still need to go through the process of verifying information and fact-checking, but tools like Dataminr can definitely help speed things up — allowing them to approach their normal process with slightly more information. Newsrooms can then still retain their policies, balancing accuracy with speed instead of being consistently behind the curve.

To learn more, check out Dan Bailey’s News Conference below:

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