The Observers is a collaborative site in four languages (French, English, Arabic and Persian) and a TV show on France 24 (with both a weekly and monthly edition). We cover international current affairs by using eyewitness accounts from "Observers" - that's to say people who are at the heart of an event. They send us photos and videos, which our team of professional journalists in Paris both verify and contextualize.
Anyone can contribute to The Observers! All you have to do in order to join our community of eyewitnesses is register on the site.
You can then reach out to our team with story ideas, videos or photos.
Once you are signed up on the site, our journalists can also get in touch with you (remember to include a phone number when you register) about a topic they're working on. Of course, it's up to you whether you contribute or not.
Our Observers come from all over the world. They live in small villages and sprawling capitals. They are students, nurses, miners, activists, professors and any other profession you can imagine. They are your eyes across the globe.
The Observers site is a collaboration between our Observers and our team of journalists in Paris. We work in two different ways:
1. Our team of journalists finds amateur images on social networks and tries to contact the author or a person with firsthand knowledge of the events depicted. If we are able to verify their account and they agree to join our network, they become an Observer.
2. Our Observers send us information about events they have witnessed and documented via photo/video.
When we are sure of the authenticity of the information and any supporting documentation, we publish them in an online article. The article takes the form of an introduction written by one of our journalists, giving context and explaining who our Observers are and why their account is pertinent. That is followed by a first-person account from our Observer, taken from a telephone interview or an exchange via social media.
To fact-check information from our Observers - especially the first time they contribute - we use traditional journalistic methods. The first time we come into contact with a potential Observer (either they approach us or we approach them), we treat them like any other news source. We crosscheck the information we give them against other sources; we ask for photo or video documentation; we question them closely about their access to the event and motivations for talking to us. We err on the side of caution. We contact pertinent government agencies or other concerned parties. Once an Observer has contributed, they become a trusted source.
We use the following methodology to verify photos/videos sent in by our Observers, whether they say they took them themselves or found them online:
Our work with amateur contributors has made us experts at verifying images from nontraditional sources. Since 2014 our team of journalists put that expertise to use in a special section called “Debunked.” Our journalists analyze and verify photographs and videos that have been widely shared online, but that may have been faked, manipulated or taken out of context. We share our expertise with the public, for instance in our detailed online photo/video verification guide.
If we receive pertinent information after the initial publication, we add it to the original article as an update or - if the new information invalidates our original information - as a correction. We are open about our sources and our methodology and publish information only when we are convinced that it is accurate on the basis of the information we have gathered. If we receive new information that changes our conclusions, it is our responsibility to alert our users by publishing any update or correction quickly, clearly and openly. You can find our contact information here.
We welcome ideas for topics we should look into - including fake news and fraudulent images. We are interested in topics relating to human rights, governance, civil society, innovative social experiments, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals - especially those that involve amateur images. You can find our contact information here.
Derek Thomson co-founded The Observers in 2007 and took over as editor-in-chief in September 2016. He presents the English versions of the weekly TV show and the monthly Observers Direct. He has worked in internet-TV convergence since the 1990s, notably at ABC News in the USA, where he produced the first regularly scheduled Webcast of a network news show, with Anderson Cooper in 1999. He joined France 24 at its launch in 2006 as head of new media, and created The Observers with Julien Pain as a way to use the internet to reach otherwise inaccessible amateur contributors. He previously worked as a producer for Reuters Television in Russia.
Gaelle Faure runs The Observers' English operations. After graduating from the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, she joined France 24 in 2009. She first worked on the TV desk before joining the Observers team in 2011. There, she has worked on a variety of projects, including the launch of the Observers' Persian-language site, teaching video workshops to bloggers in Libya, and producing Observers Direct reports from all over the world. Gaelle's work has also appeared in the TIME Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and Le Monde.
Djamel Belayachi has been head of The Observers’ Arabic operations since May 2012. He covers the Middle East / North Africa region, focusing on themes such as migration, fake news and LGBT issues. He is bilingual French/Arabic.
Alexandre Capron joined the Observers in 2012. He has presented the French version of the TV show since 2016. He focuses on amateur images in sub-Saharan Africa, especially on social media in Francophone countries. A graduate of Sciences Po Aix and CFJ Paris, he runs “The Observers Take Action” project, which covers innovative ideas related to the UN’s sustainable development goals. Alex is also The Observers’ point person for CrossCheck, the collaborative fact-checking platform launched in 2017.
Brenna M. T. Daldorph is a freelance radio, print and web journalist who has worked with the Observers since 2014. She often covers news out of Africa, and has a strong focus on human rights and how people-- especially children-- are affected by trauma and conflict. In 2016, she reported from northeastern Nigeria, Kenya and the Central African Republic (as a fellow with the IWMF Great Lakes Reporting Initiative). A graduate of the University of Kansas, Brenna remains a prairie girl at heart.
Corentin Bainier, with The Observers since 2012, is a reporter and editor. He has worked with Observers from all the world’s continents, especially Africa, Northern Europe and the Balkans, often on issues related to the environment. He also works with numerous other media in print, Web, radio and TV, in France and overseas (Brazil, Morocco, Iceland, Norway). He is also a reporter for The Observers Direct, our monthly TV report.
Chloé Lauvergnier joined The Observers in October 2014. She focuses on Africa and Latin America. During her studies at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Grenoble, then CELSA in Paris, she worked in news organizations in Chile and Argentina, as well as at the NGO Reporters Sans Frontières. She regularly contributes to Athlétisme Magazine. Chloé speaks French, Spanish and English.
Maëva Poulet joined The Observers in December 2015. She focuses on Africa and the Portuguese-speaking world. After studying at CELSA in 2014-15, she had stints with the AFP in Lisbon, and at a local TV station in Bénin. She regularly contributes to Jeune Afrique.
Catherine Bennett is a British journalist who has previously worked at Agence France-Presse in Brussels, Reuters in Madrid, and The Financial Times in Paris. She is a graduate of Sciences Po Paris.
Liselotte Mas joined The Observers in December 2016 as an intern. She focuses on Europe, francophone Africa, and Turkey. During her studies at CELSA, she had stints at Le Soir in Brussels and the AFP’s Middle East desk in Cyprus. She has also worked for the participative press agency Citizenside/Newzulu.
To better understand The Observers, check out this 40-second intro by Derek Thomson: