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Fact Checking & Verification for Reporting: Fact-Checking Your Reporting

Newmark J-School's Accuracy Checklist(s) for Reporters

Use this Newmark J-School Accuracy Checklist for ReportersMake an Accuracy Checklist a part of your reporting process.

Common Errors

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.

Why smart people (like you) make stupid mistakes | BBC Ideas

What is Verifiable Information?

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

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

Always Ask Yourselves These Questions

Always ask yourself these questions when trying to verify information:

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

Confirmation Bias

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

More Accuracy Checklists

Some other good checklists to use:

Fact-checking guides relating to politics: