Saturday, June 22, 2013

Learning To Love Fact-Checking


Journalism students love to complain about two things more than anything: transcribing interviews and fact-checking. Both of these tasks can be tedious, and both require meticulous work and intense focus. But transcribing and fact-checking are essential components of both journalism and journalism-related internships. Sorry, young journos: You can run, but you can’t hide from tiresome transcriptions and detailed fact-checking.

But us complainers have it all wrong: If you truly want to be a journalist, fact-checking is awesome.

Yeah, I said it. The dreaded activity is actually “awesome.” I only quote myself because I’m fairly certain that was the first time fact-checking has ever been called awesome. You’re witnessing history here, people.

My experience so far as a young journalist, especially the last few days, has convinced me that fact-checking is an integral aspect of journalism and the education of a journalist. It teaches essential skills of reporting, editing and journalistic analysis. It requires a tremendous amount of attention to detail and also requires the ability to conduct in-depth research, sometimes by stepping outside one’s comfort zone. It is essential work for any magazine or serious publication.

Since I arrived at Washingtonian magazine this week, I've been absorbed in fact-checking. And I've loved every minute of it. In just a few days, I already feel more confident in my fact-checking and editing abilities. And I know I’m going to continue getting better throughout the summer as my responsibilities expand.

I’m not going to lie, I've complained about fact-checking assignments in the past. I've always understood its importance, and I certainly would never have belittled the task or those who undertake it. But after diving headfirst into fact-checking on my first day at Washingtonian and continuing to dig deeper throughout the week, I've developed a greater appreciation for the art.

 Yes, fact-checking is an art, and to any Washingtonian editors reading this: I’d really appreciate if my name could be listed on the masthead as “Fact-Check Artist” for the August issue. Thanks in advance.

Fact-checking may not be the most glamorous task, but I can tell that my experience at Washingtonian will greatly enhance both my editing and reporting skills. I’m confident these improvements will come in use throughout the summer as my responsibilities expand to writing and further editing. It may be meticulous work, but it’s also extremely rewarding. And it’s an unappreciated yet essential aspect of a magazine.

Oh, and transcribing interviews? Well, for that let’s just say I’m still learning to appreciate that.

By Stanley Kay, Northwestern University, Washingtonian
Edited by Bryan Bumgardner, West Virginia University, Scientific American Magazine

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