The Facts of Fact-Checking

October 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

As an editorial or writing intern, the most important skill you can learn is how to be a good fact-checker. Fact-checking is simply the checking of facts. Whoa! Blew your mind, didn’t I? But seriously, your duty is to scan a piece up for publication and check every fact in it for accuracy. You are the only defense against the publication of a lie. The reputation of the newspaper industry rests in your hands! This is only sort of an exaggeration because fact-checking is important to any publication, so take it seriously and you’ll be the real MVP of the newsroom.

For example, a few weeks ago, the UK’s Daily Mail published a story about the growing number of illiterate adults. In a hilarious-for-a-normal-person but devastating-for-a-journalist twist, they misspelled a word in the headline. This is why an army of fact-checkers in crucial to making a paper the best it can be. You must make sure your quotes are accurate, and that the math and statistics add up.
Also, proper fact-checking can seriously help prevent a newspaper from libel, which can easily cause an entire publication to crumble. Imagine what would happen if you claimed that somebody murdered somebody when they hadn’t?

You’re gonna be checking everything from all proper nouns to personal facts that the reporter observed. Fact-checking can be super awkward, and have you asking a source is they’ve ran a drug ring, or killed a guy, or has herpes. But it’s for accuracy! For precision!

The merits of fact-checking are also important when you are the writer. Make the fact-checker’s life easier by providing contact information for your sources and any links to articles you may reference. Nothing makes an intern grumpier than having them look through decades worth of archives to find an article you cited once. Also, a fact-checker have heightened senses when looking for those dastardly typos and grammatical mistakes.

If you need any more examples on why fact-checking is important, you can check out Mayor Stephanie Rawling-Blake’s twitter, where she misspelled Cal Ripken’s name. After the fact, she tweeted “I guess I’m the only one who has ever tweeted a typo?!!” Not if us fact-checkers have any say in it, Mayor.

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