5 fact-checking questions editors should ask

October 11, 2016

Fact-checking needs editors, who are the final line of defense in ensuring objective and transparent fact checks. For starters, editors should follow the advice offered by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book, “The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect,” which outlines the principles of “the journalism of verification.”

Editors should ask:

  • Has anything been embellished or invented? (Fact-checking editors should obviously be particularly strict about this.)
  • Could anything the reporter has written be perceived as deceptive or misleading? Are quotes precise? Are statistics used truthfully?
  • Is the story transparent about methodology? Is it clear why this particular statement is being checked?
  • Is the story based on the reporters’ own original reporting?
  • Has the reporter exercised humility? This may sound odd, but here’s what Kovach and Rosenstiel mean: “… not only should [reporters] be skeptical of what they see and hear from others, but just as importantly, they should be skeptical about their ability to know what it really means.”

Taken from Fact-checking: How to Improve Your Skills in Accountability Journalism, a self-directed course by Alexios Mantzarlis and Jane Elizabeth at Poynter NewsU.

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