Let me start off by saying I had no idea what to expect from my magazine journalism internship. All I knew was my official job title: “editorial intern.” I quickly realized on the first day of the job that the bulk of my duties were to fact-check everything that went to press. And I mean everything.
From calling sources to verify the most inconsequential details to clarifying trivial facts (for instance, how many jägerbombs did sailors toss back at last year’s Rose Festival Fleet Week?), Sarah Harrison Smith’s “The Fact Checker’s Bible: A Guide to Getting It Right” quickly became one of the most important resources in my internship. I’m beginning to learn that, although tedious and often neglected in the editing cycle, fact-checking is extremely important.
For one, in our digitized world, we’re bombarded with information overloads. In order to discern truth and meaning from what we read, it’s imperative to master the art of “skeptical reading” (Harrison’s phrase, not mine) to ensure accuracy and source reliability (ergo, Wikipedia is a no-go).
Errors and misinformation not only undermine the credibility of any publication, but have the long-standing potential to damage the reputation of editors, writers, advertisers and more.
In addition, taking the time to ensure accuracy will avoid any costly legal tangles like copyright infringements or plagiarism allegations. In the end, I’ve learned that getting the facts right is the difference between “Emily Wilson, Portland Senior Experience intern” and “Emily Wilson, Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Graduate Chair at the University of Pennsylvania. Born 1971.”
You would agree it’s pretty important to not mix those two up on a fact-checking assignment.
And yes, I did Google myself.