How Well Do You Fact Check?

http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/2008/12/how-well-do-you-fact-check/

by Terreece M. Clarke

The BEST writing “how-to” ever!.

Our first job as non-fiction content writers/journalists is to present the truth fairly and accurately. Whether it’s on the web, in glossies or newsprint we are obligated to uphold a certain standard. It is what makes people trust what we say and what makes them look to us when they need information.

Most of us do our jobs well. We seek out knowledgeable sources and we try to stay as objective as possible. But how well researched is that knowledgeable source?

You’re writing an article on clothes detergent – the best kind for a large household. You smartly bypass detergent companies because they obviously have a vested interest and instead set up a meeting with a textiles or hospitality service professor from a respected university. What they have to say will be gold right? Maybe not. Thoroughly check out your expert. Did they work for a detergent company before turning to academia? If they’ve completed research on cleaning agents, who sponsored the study? What’s their stance on environmentally safe cleaners? Depending on your experts ties to industries, you may get a less than objective viewpoint.

Does this mean you have to ax a source because they have certain leanings on a subject – no, but there are times when those leanings should be disclosed to the readers.

Before the election, when pundits weighed in on which candidate was telling the truth and what information was misrepresented, they would often relate to the audience “this person, a democratic strategist” or “commentator so-and-so, owner of conservative think tank blah, blah.”

When a study hits the newswire, always ask who sponsored the study, the information should be easy to find. When you look for sources foundations and associations always sound great, but investigate the opinions or industries the organization represents.

For example, owners of social networking web sites will say social networking is the future of all internet activity and the leader of the National Association for Seat Belt Liberation will likely say that seat belt laws are a sinister plot by the auto and insurance industry and is a violation of civil liberties.

So be a Max and not a Bloo and fact check!


Comments

  1. What a fun video :-)

    But yes, I think we can too easily rely on “trusted” sources (even Wikipedia) once too often.

  2. Basic tennet of journalism: “Always get at least two sources. If your mother says she loves you, make sure you confirm it with source.”

  3. Andy (I can say this because I live there),

    “Trusted,” like Illinois governors? :)

  4. Hi Terreece,

    This may be off topic. But I am looking for some answers. I am starting my query process, I have never been published in a print magazine. I have read that a great way to break into a magazine, would be to interview an expert. My issue is, how do you come up with questions that are news worthy? For example I want to query a magazine about a natural health supplement. How can I construct a solid interview? Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Nina Lewis

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