Fact check an article
Fact-checkers play a crucial role in the journalistic process. Nearly all periodicals (newspapers, magazines, etc.) employ fact-checkers, in addition to scholastic publishers, publishers of non-fiction, and most digital publications. Generally employed by the publication in which an article will appear, fact-checkers are responsible not just for verifying the accuracy of the information in the article, but also for double-checking with sources and interviewees to ensure that their statements are being represented accurately. Fact-checkers have to quickly become experts in whichever topic their assigned article covers. Fact-checking can take anywhere from a week or two, for short articles, to months or years for book-length publications. For this exercise, you are a fact-checker at a popular magazine.
The process below includes the steps to produce an article. Fact-checking is a critical part of this process.
- Brainstorm ideas, often as an editorial board. Staff writers are often assigned pieces to cover from this meeting.
- Reporting. The reporting process can take anywhere from days to months to complete, and involves talking to sources, doing background research, and reading related journalism. Ideally each reporter keeps detailed notes and recordings of his/her interviews, which are later turned over to the fact-checker.
- Writing. The writer and editor work together to write and structure the article, often over the course of several drafts.
- Fact-checking. Usually towards the end of the writing and editing process, the fact-checker is brought in to begin contacting sources and doing other necessary research. You will be performing this step for this exercise.
- Publication. Depending on where the article is being published, the text is turned over for formatting, SEO, and other production processes.
Task 1: Evaluation
Click below to download the article.
Read the article with an eye towards the facts that are presented, and the people whose opinions are portrayed. Make a list of not just the facts that appear explicitly in the article, but the assumptions behind those facts.
Task 2: Cross-check
Do as much research in you can within a short timeframe (1-2 days). Start by doing background research into the topic before verifying each fact that is presented in the article. Keep a list of each source that you consult. Google is always a good place to start, but make sure that the sources you are consulting are trustworthy.
Because you are using a previously published article for this exercise, you do not have to actually contact the sources cited. However, it may be useful to draft emails imagining that you are the fact-checker for the article. These emails should be short and polite, while ensuring that the source has done the proper research to make the claims they have made in the article. Does any of your research contradict what was said in the article? Are there any facts that you could not verify? These may be issues to discuss with your source.
Task 3: Write the report
Write a one-page report that an editor could use to ensure that the article has been fact-checked. List your research, your sources, and any information you could not verify or that you are still unsure about.
General resources to help you get started:
- 7 things to consider before getting into fact-checking
- Fact-checking at The New Yorker: An excerpt from The Art of Making Magazines
Skills Used to Perform These Tasks
- Research into an unfamiliar topic
- Critical analysis
- Strong writing skills
Skills Used in This Field
- Excellent communication skills, not limited to writing, reading, and interpersonal communication
- Attention to deadlines, ability to work quickly
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Simulation author – Serena Solin, MFA
Job simulation vetted by fact-checkers in New York