Fact Checking
Whether you’re writing for a local publication or updating a company blog, ensuring that the information you’re putting out for public consumption is accurate can help build credibility and trust with your readers—and spare you from embarrassing corrections down the … "/>

How To Fact Check A Post

Fact Checking
Whether you’re writing for a local publication or updating a company blog, ensuring that the information you’re putting out for public consumption is accurate can help build credibility and trust with your readers—and spare you from embarrassing corrections down the road.

Freelance writer Cindy Potts, who ghostwrites for professionals and works as a senior copywriter for digital marketing agency Technology Therapy Group, offers some tips.

 

1. Read Through Each Post, Scanning for Items to Fact-Check.

“Before a post goes live, I read through it and identify points that are open to question,” Potts explains. She double-checks names and dates, as well as historical facts and extraordinary claims. Whether you’re highlighting a draft or simply making a list, keep the information organized as you work through verifying the information. Many professional fact-checkers use a marker—often red—to underline verifiable “facts” in a post or article before beginning the process.

 

2. Verify Names and Titles.

Potts uses social media first. “LinkedIn is a great tool for this,” she says, but she also calls companies and universities that anyone is claiming to be associated with if the evidence isn’t available online. For example, “if someone’s claiming to be a college professor, but the college website doesn’t list them, call and ask.”

 

3. Verify the Accuracy of Historical Facts.

Potts looks for two references, not including Wikipedia, which she uses only as a starting point. “Google Scholar is a tool I like to use to find academics working on a particular area: many of them will answer emails/calls if you have a question,” Potts explains.

What if you’re reporting on breaking news and that information isn’t available? “Sometimes, particularly with very recent historic events, you have no substitute but to actually go to the source,” says Potts. A recent story she wrote required double-checking with the health department and a local pediatrician’s office to see if what they were experiencing matched up with what she was being told. She’s found that people are more willing to speak with her off the record during fact-checking than they are to be quoted in a story.

 

4. Double-Check Extraordinary Claims.

If you run into a source that has a different perspective than, say, a governmental agency, you can quote both. For example, a source may have a theory about an obscure cure for a disease. “Governmental agencies will give you their position happily, but you will run into people who claim that a conspiracy is afoot if you believe the FDA, etc. My personal practice is to say, ‘Source says X, while the FDA says this’ without explicitly putting a conclusion out there,” says Potts.

It’s not just medical or scientific claims that can be troublesome.

“My fact-checking process is pretty consistent for all claims: where that gets problematic is when companies claim ‘we grew 240 percent in the past six months,’ where there is no outside verification. Don’t let someone puff themselves up at the expense of your integrity!” Potts warns.

 

5. Establish Credibility of Sources

Whether you’re fact checking your own writing or someone else’s, make sure to include the name and credentials of whoever you are quoting. “Not all sources are equally credible, so you’ll want to determine what sources are most valuable to you for fact checking purposes. The fact a site has a high site ranking on Google does not mean it is the most accurate,” Potts says.
 

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