Honestly, the most exciting part of my week was catching an almost-embarrassing factual error in a magazine feature story. It was fact-checking gold. “Oh, there’s no hyphen in your last name? It’s all one word?” Jackpot.
Besides the fact that I’m a tremendously nerdy fanatic of all things grammar-related and a fresh product of the SOJC’s terrifying Fatal Flaw grade rule, interning as a magazine fact checker is thoroughly fulfilling for me. Even with entry-level responsibilities that some may see as less than prestigious, fixing the most minor errors in journalistic works gives me a small part in bringing reputable information to the public. Although often seemingly insignificant, factual errors can have devastating consequences for both journalists and journalism.
As part of my internship, I recently read The Fact Checker’s Bible: A Guide to Getting It Right by Sarah Harrison Smith. Reading this advice-packed tome only further proved what I’ve always taken seriously: even the smallest errors in the media can completely shatter the industry us journalism students are working so hard to join.
The book quotes Sara Lippincott, the former head of fact-checking at The New Yorker, as saying, “A little skepticism … is much to be desired, but if it is fed over and over again with a diet of misinformation, it eventually becomes cynicism, which is a different thing entirely. Then we are turned off. Then we cease to listen to each other at all, and so the journalist is in danger of becoming extinct – or ignored, which amounts to the same thing.”
So even though I spend multiple hours daily highlighting blurbs and checking, double-checking, and triple-checking whether that cocktail at that new bar really is made with lemon and ginger and whether it really does cost nine dollars, I feel fortunate to be a part of the process. Whether we are working in advertising, PR, or editorial, accuracy in everything we produce is vital to our reputation and a critical backbone of our entire industry.