Reporting of the Arabic revolutions signified a "major shift" for Al Jazeera, its head of social media said today.

Speaking at the media140 conference in Barcelona via video link Riyaad Minty said a key strategy for Al Jazeera was to get in early and make contact with key bloggers and sources in countries to act as citizen reporters for the news outlet.

"One of the biggest lessons is when there's a war, when there's a disaster, the first thing that gets taken out is technology and commutations systems, such as Facebook and Twitter."

The strategy worked by trying to identify key bloggers in countries before protests broke out, informed by the situation in other areas, to act as citizen reporters and then be able to verify information later on.

"The key to getting in early is verifying information before the noise gets out. We had peoples' phone numbers, we could call them up and get things verified by them.

"In Libya, for example, we had a doctor on the phone with a web journalist, as the doctor was driving someone opened fire and he was giving us live reports on the phone. It's about amplifying these voices."

At its peak Al Jazeera's citizen media platform Sharek was receiving up to 1,600 videos per day, prompting the broadcaster to work on building its resources to dealing with, and verifying, this material.

He added there have been numerous cases where footage has been submitted and then, after investigation, it has been found to be from past conflict, for example.

"That's why we try to get in early, get relationships with people. There is then a sense of credibility we get from them.

"We go through history folders, see what other information they've been posting online."

Discussing the pressure of real time news he said Al Jazeera remains committed to "strict" verification processes.

"Our philosophy is we'll verify it as much as possible. We take our time in doing it.

"There was a case in Egypt where we had a video of a car which came out and ran over people.

"We couldn't get it verified, it was amazing footage and could have been breaking news but it was several hours while it went through a strict verification process."

Fellow speaker on the roundtable, deputy director of El Pais Gumersindo Lafuente, added that even before the events in the Arab world similar "technology landmarks" were happening, albeit more "silently".

"Many scholars have anticipated what was going to happen. Many others have denied that and have built walls of all different natures."

He added that similarly, the building of relationships of trust between journalists and sources is an age-old exercise, but the "new scenario" means journalists need to develop new skills to ensure published material is real.

"El Pais is trying to use all the traditional tools but also tries to listen to other people trying to express their voices through these tools.

"We need to learn how to work differently, to use real time information from our sources.

"We generated real time material on the basis of what was happening so it was very multi-faceted work, info from our special correspondents and also information from citizens."

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