In the late 1970s I co-authored an article for Psychology Today magazine that was rigorously fact-checked by someone at the publication. Every person I had interviewed was called, the spelling of their names confirmed, and their ages and other identifying information verified. Dates and sequences of events (we were writing about the aftermath of the war in Vietnam) were checked as well.
Print magazines are still known for their rigorous fact-checking, or at least some spot-checking; most require writers to submit contact information on all sources. Webzines, by contrast, follow the newspaper tradition of minimal fact-checking. As this Slate article explains the system, “writers are responsible for the accuracy of their pieces, editors do their best to backstop them, and more often than anybody will admit, copy editors save all of us from embarrassment with their last-second interventions.”
Slate, however, has a self-appointed fact-checker who’s been sending in corrections to the website since 2000. I’m proud to say that the fact-checker, profiled by Slate last week, is my cousin RM “Auros” Harman.
One thought on “Remember fact-checking?”
And now, I shall fact-check you!
I’m actually not sure exactly when I started writing in with corrections. It seems likely I posted some complaints in The Fray almost as soon as I became a regular reader. And I may’ve emailed authors a few items before the institution of the corrections@slate email address. But it was definitely after they formally started taking corrections that it became a routine reflex.
Also, in terms of fact-checking myself — I was only able to verify 17 corrections for the article. I think the real number is more like 40+; I just didn’t save all the emails. After the article, I started saving everything; just in the last two weeks, I’ve submitted six, three of which scored. Granted, part of that is that I’m being extra-diligent, living up to expectations. But still, I’m sure the 17 figure is low. Ah well.