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Fact Checking, Verification & Fake News

Fact-Checking Information & Resources

Fact checking will bulletproof your reporting 

Always ask yourself these questions when trying to verify information:

  • "Who says?"
  • "How do they know?"
  • "Are they biased?"
  • "What don't I know?"

What Do I Check?

  • proper names
  • place names
  • references to time, distance, date, season
  • physical descriptions
  • references to the sex of anyone described 
  • quotations (and facts within quotes)
  • any argument or narrative that depends on fact

Source: Smith, Sarah H. The Fact Checker’s Bible: A Guide to Getting it Right. University of Chicago Press: 2016.

Common Errors

  • numbers and statistics (mixing up “billions” & “millions”)
  • names of people, titles, locations
  • ages
  • historical facts
  • superlatives like “only,” “first” and “most”
  • dates

Frequent Sources of Error

  • working from memory
  • making assumptions
  • second-hand sources

Source: Carroll, Brian. Writing and Editing for Digital Media. Routledge: 2014.

Where do I fact check?

  • Go to the primary source when possible. Using secondary sources like articles can perpetuate errors.
  • Use your university library’s, your news organization’s, or your public library’s electronic and print resources.
  • Search databases of news and journal articles, like LexisNexis or ScienceDirect, which aren’t accessible on the web, but are available in libraries.
  • Contact an expert - but check them out
  • Google Scholar
  • Google Books
  • Open data portals
  • Reference books
  • Find a stakeholder - someone who's interested in the same thing you are

Confirmation Bias

"subconscious tendency to seek and interpret information and other evidence in ways that affirm our existing beliefs, ideas, expectations, and/or hypotheses. Therefore, confirmation bias is both affected by and feeds our implicit biases. It can be most entrenched around beliefs and ideas that we are strongly attached to or that provoke a strong emotional response." Source: Facing History and Ourselves 

How to Thwart Your Confirmation Bias

  • “*Counter-argue your story hypothesis,” or source’s assertion.
  • Actively seek out contrary information.
  • Rigorously test and verify every fact or assertion of fact before you publish, so you’ll be able to stand by the accuracy of your work later.

From Twenty ways to cultivate an open mind, From Overcoming Bias, A Journalist's Guide to culture & context

Newmark J-School Accuracy Checklist for Reporters

Make an Accuracy Checklist a part of your reporting process

Here is a list of other good ones to use:

Fact-checking guides relating to politics:

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