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As journalists — even ones just starting out — we face a lot of pressure to publish quickly, meeting our own deadlines and beating other outlets to the story. But the glory of getting the scoop doesn’t mean anything if the information you publish isn’t accurate. Corrections (or heaven forbid, retractions) do happen, sometimes to veteran journalists and well-known media outlets. But as someone just starting out, you can’t afford for your editors or readers to label you as a reporting noob who can’t be trusted with a big story.
So how do journalists keep themselves and their work honest? Enter fact-checking!
OK, so calling people and annotating how you know everything in your story may not be the sexiest part of the job, but it is absolutely necessary. And for new reporters, the time to build your fact-checking spidey sense is NOW.
In this Youth Radio toolkit, we’ll give you a basic rundown of how to fact-check your work, including a few case studies from our reporting files. We also have a fun activity for you to challenge your budding reporters to find the facts!
INTRODUCTION: What do you need to fact check?
Just getting started with fact-checking and you’re not sure where to start? No problem. We’ve created a chart, adapted from a resource from The City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, with a guide to what type of information needs fact-checking, and where you might go to find the truth.
The chart is also available to download as a HANDOUT: Intro To Fact-Checking Chart
BACKGROUND: Ask The Awkward Questions: Four Fact-Checking Case Studies For New Journalists
So you’re just getting started in journalism — awesome! Whether you’re a teen working at your school’s paper, a cub reporter at a local radio station, or online blogger with new ideas about how we should consume media, all journalists share the same mission: tell the truth.
Here are a few of our stories: four case studies of difficult, surprising, and sometimes downright awkward fact-checking scenarios for emerging journalists.
ACTIVITY: Fast-Fact Biographies
In this activity, students will learn how easy it can be to make mistakes when writing copy on a tight deadline. Students will take turns interviewing and being interviewed, writing short biographies of each other and then fact-checking the end result. This activity works best with a group where participants are not already familiar with each other’s personal histories.
Download the full lesson plan here: LESSON PLAN: Fast-Fact Biographies
This expert Q&A comes via the Storyboard podcast. Wired Senior Research Editor Joanna Pearlstein describes the fact-checking flow at the magazine, which can keep journalists “here until midnight trying to verify all the material.”
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR FACT-CHECKING