coffee newspaper throwback
Credit: Image from

In our Throwback Thursday series, we take a look at what the key figures in media were saying in the past, based on the archive, and how those issues can be related to the current challenges and opportunities that dominate the conversation about the digital media landscape.

Read the first part of the series here, and the second here. In this installment, we go back to August 2008 to look at some of the new initiatives coming online at the time, and the reasons behind their launches.

Verification and user-generated content troubles

The impact of misinformation on the media landscape and the declining trust in media outlets are two of the themes permeating most discussions about the state of journalism today. But troubles concerning the verification of eyewitness media as well as suspicion about the veracity of certain news stories published online are not new.

Back in 2008 for example, the ‘Your Photos’ section of the Sky News website featured photoshopped pictures that "witnesses" submitted from the London Marathon, edited, for example, to include the Grim Reaper in the background.

August 2008 also saw the launch of NewsCred, a website aggregating news articles that could be upvoted or downvoted by readers in an attempt to score their credibility.

"Every single person we've talked to has told us that they've come across articles or news content that they thought were biased or factually inaccurate. This is exactly the problem we're trying to solve," said Shafqat Islam, co-founder of NewsCred, in a press release announcing the launch.

Nowadays, there are many prominent initiatives working to curb the spread of misinformation on social media, from offering training to journalists whose main role is to source eyewitness media from social networks, to fact-checking information shared on social media – often in collaboration with the social networks themselves.

Mobile journalism, the 2008 version

The phones we carry in our pockets nowadays enable journalists to take photos, film and even edit stories to publish from the scene, and many newsrooms have trained their reporters to ensure they have up-to-date mobile journalism skills.

But the iPhone reporter of today is different from the reporter practising what we called mobile journalism in 2008.

Back then, wrote about a Reuters initiative to hand out cameras to members of the public attending the Democrat convention in Denver, Colorado, and the Republican convention in St Paul, Minnesota.

Around 40 people, including Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, received Sanyo HD video cameras and Flip Mino cameras to help Reuters get new voices in their coverage.

"The idea behind this project was to capture the conventions from the ground up. There are some 15,000 journalists in Denver and St Paul, but we can't be everywhere, and our delegates and other contributors are able to capture the proceedings from their own unique perspectives," Adam Pasick, then US editor for, now push news editor at Quartz, told

Just like mobile journalism today, the Reuters initiative aimed to result in a larger number of more diverse stories.

CNN's BackStory tool for developing news stories

In 2008, CNN launched a tool called BackStory that pulled together articles about the same news event, in an effort to provide the big picture around a story and show how it has developed over time. The tool combined the need to put news stories into context with that of resurfacing existing stories.

Adding more context to journalism has been a subject explored by a number of news organisations in the past few years, such as Vox, which developed its own embeddable card stack.

In the UK, Explaain has attempted to reinvent the article in order to include more information about the concepts and the people playing a key role in the story.

The New York Times Data Visualisation Lab

In 2007, The New York Times introduced reader comments underneath articles. In 2008, the title opened the Data Visualisation Lab, a place where readers can access data from The New York Times and create different types of visuals using it, as well as comment on other work.

The Lab is currently offline, but the ‘about’ text quoted in the announcement explained the motivations behind the launch:

"The Times believes that users could bring their insight to the process of interpreting data and information and discovering new and innovative ways of presenting them. Just as readers’ comments on articles and blogs enhance our journalism, these visualisations – and the sparks they generate – can take on new value in a social setting and become a catalyst for discussion."

See you next week for more Throwback Thursday! Do you remember any predictions that never came to pass, or any quotes that were spot on from 'back in the day'? Tweet us at @journalismnews.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).