This week Telum caught up with the Visual Investigations Producer at Narasi, Aqwam Fiazmi Hanifan, about using open-source intelligence (OSINT) to produce news stories. One of his works is an investigative piece about a bus stop burned in a protest against a government job creation bill in October 2020. Using TikTok and CCTV cameras provided by Bali Tower, Aqwam found that the perpetrators targeted the bus stop in an organised effort.
What is OSINT?
OSINT is actually nothing new, it is a method of obtaining publicly available information in cyberspace for examples photos, videos, or documents. This is normal for intelligence work, but now media outlets are also using it for reporting. OSINT these days is always associated with the search for digital-based open data sources. Moreover, the digital ecosystem is something that’s very close to us.
What are the differences between OSINT and data journalism?
The keyword is investigation. Data journalism is not necessarily investigative. Data journalism does not have to be digital-based, while OSINT is mostly digital.
How did you come to know the term in the media industry?
Through the Arab Spring movement. This method can be used for many things, from politics, environmental issues, to tracking human trafficking victims.
Why does OSINT need to be used in the media industry?
It’s cheap. Investigative journalism is expensive. OSINT adds weight to your investigation. Research is part of OSINT, including Googling. In Googling, there is a technique called Google Dorking or Google Hacking whereby utilising certain keywords you can get deeper information from your search.
What are the obstacles to using OSINT?
It requires patience. In order to get the desired data, it will require a lot of digging. And you might get confused when you find something new along the way.
Is there a lot of verified data available to the public in Indonesia?
In Indonesia, a lot of data is publicly available but hard to find. Therefore, we must verify it using offline sources. We have to obtain materials through anonymous sources or interviews. In contrast with China, where the transparency is good and privacy is well maintained.
How do you see the relationship between communication professionals and journalists? What do you think needs to be improved and avoided?
Sometimes PR people make press materials that are too rigid, so that the information is too one-sided and not many creative things are included to support the information. My impression is that they give space for their bosses to tell their own stories, so the information provided tends to be dry.
What do you think is the ideal press release?
Just be creative by incorporating many news sources. Make it like a feature.
What mistakes do PRs often make in crafting press releases?
Boring headlines and sometimes the data in press materials can make journalists confused.