SAM, the Canadian-based curation platform billed as a "CMS for tweets", has appointed its first UK team member, Fergus Bell, who joins the company from his role as social media and UGC editor at Associated Press (AP).
Bell will take on the London-based position of head of newsroom partnerships and innovation when he officially joins SAM in January, working as "the intermediary between editorial and product" to teach newsrooms more about the technology and how it can be used to cover breaking stories and verify user-generated content (UGC).
The platform launched earlier this year after four months in beta, and is currently being used by newsrooms including Press Association and the Financial Times.
SAM aims to help users simplify the workflow required for processing UGC, with features such as 'asset monitoring' to flag when social media posts have been edited – which can pose a risk to news outlets if the content of a post embedded into a story on their site is significantly changed.
Other features include automatic watermarking to credit users, and a Chrome plug-in that allows users to import tweets from Twitter or Tweetdeck as well as posts from Instagram and YouTube videos directly into the platform.
"There's so much social media and UGC content having to be dealt with by newsrooms these days that it seems like an obvious thing to need a tool to be able to manage that, rather than internally creating your own technology," explained Bell, who was at AP for more than eight years.
He said it was "really refreshing" that there were "people out there not just looking at the editorial processes for dealing with UGC, but also the technical [processes] that allow the editorial ones to run more smoothly".
Bell, who starts his new role in January, met SAM's CEO and founder James Neufeld through the Online News Association's UGC Ethics Working Group.With the quality and quantity of UGC flowing into newsrooms nowadays we have to manage both the tidal wave of content, but also all of the ethical challenges that come with itFergus Bell, SAM
He explained that journalism ethics is close to his heart, beyond questions of consent and accreditation around UGC, making it one of the things that attracted him to working at SAM.
For example, SAM's tagging function can allow users to flag posts containing graphic images, potentially limiting the number of people who are exposed to them and reducing the risk of vicarious trauma in newsrooms.
Another use for tags is to assist with the verification process, so journalists collaborating within the newsroom can see when a post has been approved or whether further research is needed.
"One of the things I wanted to do in my next role is work in a position where I could drive innovation forward relating to ethics and standards in UGC," said Bell.
"If we start to do things in newsrooms the right way now and the ethical way now, and we make it easy for that to happen, then that's how change – in terms of ethics and standards relating to UGC – can happen.
"And that's something that I'm incredibly passionate about, because I think with the quality and quantity of UGC flowing into newsrooms nowadays we have to manage both the tidal wave of content, but also all of the ethical challenges that come with it in ways that engage our audience rather than turn them off."
He also sees SAM as something that can reduce "clutter" within the newsroom, such as swathes of emails and unnecessarily convoluted workflows.
"So whereas before you might have been sending emails around to your company with links, or instant messaging links to each other in order to put [content] through a verification process... this just takes it out of email completely," he said.
With the rest of the team based across the Atlantic, Bell will be communicating with his co-workers largely via video calls, although there are plans to expand the SAM team in London early next year.
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