Aric Toler is a writer and editor for Bellingcat.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I used to work in corporate intelligence/analysis with a bank and started to volunteer at Bellingcat in 2014 after the downing of MH17. It was just a hobby for me at the time, as I studied Russian literature in graduate school and knew Russian, so I could contribute some research and digital digging for our volunteer group. Eventually, I started doing more and more writing, research, and running training workshops in Ukraine for Russian-speaking journalists to teach digital research/verification skills. We eventually got a small pile of funding from Google, but enough for me to quit my job and start doing this full-time. So now I split my time equally between doing writing, research, editing, and so on, and organizing and running training workshops for Russian-speaking journalists in the Post Soviet space.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Depending on the day, I do some combination of handling translations on the Bellingcat site (we have a few freelance translators who get all of our articles into Russian), helping with research and writing of investigations, and planning/running training workshops all over. For example, last week I was in Kyiv and L’viv to give a couple of seminars for Ukrainian journalists and students on doing digital research. Next week, I’m going to be finding a hotel to organize a workshop in Bishkek for Central Asian journalists.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
PC with a couple of big monitors. Apps I use most often are Google Earth (finding/analyzing satellite imagery), SnagIt (screen capture/simple image editing), and Tweetdeck (monitoring).
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
I have no idea, sorry.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
“Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.” (most popularly attributed to Chekhov, but he almost certainly never actually wrote it).
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE OR WRITTEN PIECE?
“Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.” Most popularly attributed to Chekhov, but he almost certainly never actually wrote it.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
The work of Malachy Browne at The New York Times is fascinating, especially with the innovative ways they use open source information and video presentations. In particular, two investigations they did — One, for the Las Vegas shootings, and the other for the brawl by the Turkish Embassy in Washington — were absolutely fascinating.
WHAT’S THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
Continuing investigations into the downing of MH17, with a focus on the individuals who are persons of interest in the tragedy.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Find a niche, read as much as possible, and try to reconstruct the methodological steps taken in investigations that heavily rely on digital research.