Internship Lesson #1: Fact checking is very different than accuracy checking.

Okay, so this isn’t technically the first thing I learned working for the Chicago reporter, but it’s the first thing I’ve been able to blog about because the stuff I work on there is pretty confidential, investigative-reporter-like stuff.

If our two reporters, Angela and Maria, were male, this is what they would look like. But with more modern haircuts.

As with any magazine, however, even pretty big investigative pieces need fact checking. I’m sorry, did I say “even?” I meant “especially.”

But here’s the thing; what I did at the Missourian with my “accuracy checks” is so far off the mark from what I do to “fact check” at the Reporter that I had to sit down with my managing editor and actually learn from my internship. Can you imagine that? (That was sarcastic).

Accuracy Checks: The reporter does the accuracy check. Make sure everything in the article attributed to the subject is correct by asking the subject directly. Read quotes aloud to make sure they’re right, and maybe read some of the more complicated parts of the writing to make sure the central idea is correct. You may have to work with the source to get the writing right. Right? Right.

Fact Checking: Someone other than the reporter does fact checking on the piece. What’s in quotations stays in quotations, no checks made. Also avoid reading anything directly — or even sounding like you’re reading off a sheet of paper — so the source can’t tell you to reword the writing. Double check spellings, titles and figures (like an accuracy check), but almost conduct a second interview to make sure the information you get the second time is solid to what the reporter got the first.

I don’t quite understand why the difference; maybe the Missourian used accuracy checks because we’re students and young and make mistakes (if you can imagine!). As a writer, I prefer the fact checking style over that of the accuracy check because it gives a source less of a chance to tweak the words I’ve labored over. Then again, there’s nothing more embarrassing/unnerving to hear the intern next to you talking to one of your sources and find out something that was written was wrong. But that only happened once on the piece I wrote.

I think.

But I should really check on that.


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