Fact checking: What writers really need to know

IT HAPPENS MORE THAN YOU THINK. As a journalist, you are always on the run to find new news. In a writers mind, a story only stays relevant for so long.

The pressure to report the story before other journalists weighs heavily on the minds of a writer and sometimes gets in the way of really checking the facts before sending the story out.

When there is a deadline for a story, we dive headfirst into writing and leave minimal amounts of time to check the facts of the story. An important thing to remember is that the journalist is just as responsible for fact checking as the copy editor. Copy editors who find mistakes will most likely give the piece back to the writer to fact check and fix reference errors. Being proficient with AP style and having the skill to spot editing errors really makes everyone’s jobs easier, especially on a deadline.

In their book, ‘Creative Editing’, Dorothy Bowles and Diane Borden said that,

“The most frequent errors in news stories are in names, dates, locations and descriptions of past events.”

The authors of the book go into much more detail on checking to see if a source is indeed a credible one and the different types of research needed for writing news articles.

Questions writers and journalists have to ask themselves: Was the father really accused of murder? Is this a credible source? Is the date, time and location of the story accurate? All of these questions should cross a writers mind when they’re writing a story.

The public also looks into fact checking, especially when it involves politicians and whether they are really telling voters the truth. A lot of fact checking companies, such as PolitiFact.com, have sprung up as the 2012 election gets under way. They let the public know exactly how truthful President Barack Obama or president-elect Mitt Romney are really being.

So, fact-checking isn’t just important for journalists. The public always wants to know the truth.

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