This week I’d like to talk about the art of fact checking, or what I like to call, doing your due diligence. For any story, cross checking facts is the most important thing you can do. Not only to prove your credibility with your sources, but also to ensure that what your reader is reading is 100 percent accurate. While you’d think most would find this as a pretty obvious part of being a journalist, it never ceases to amaze me when something in a story hasn’t been double checked and nobody can really confirm or deny if it is true or not.
Most of the time when we can’t confirm a fact in a story, we cut it out. For example, this week I published an update on what is happening with former professor of English at Allegheny, Kirk Nesset. According to multiple articles (that were written a month ago) Nesset was still living at his house with a curfew and an ankle bracelet. For my story for this week’s paper, I included that. But as our adviser noted, I couldn’t confirm that. So I took it out, no harm no foul. But if that were published, and it was inevitably not true, that error falls on me.
Looking at my ASG beat, I am currently in the middle of writing a story about the changes to the curriculum, potentially starting with the class of 2020. A lot of fact checking has to happen. I read something in the proposal (that was passed at the faculty meeting yesterday, Nov. 13) and I make sure when I speak with one of my sources that it is in fact true, and to elaborate on it. Part of being any type of reporter is to make sure you get your facts straight, from sources that are credible.
The great real world example, of course, is Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Woodward and Bernstein were the Washington Post journalists who reported on the Watergate scandal. Their editor relentlessly attacked their facts to make sure that their sources were credible, that the interview was on the record and that they were in fact true. It is an extreme example, but a good one nonetheless.
For this upcoming week, expect a strong story on the curriculum changes, and I can ensure you everything in that story was fact checked by multiple sources.