In a world that’s quick to toss around the phrase “fake news” and scrutinize anything presented as a fact, it’s more important than ever for the news media to be honest and transparent about their methods.
So today, I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about our fact-checking process. It’s not the most glamorous part of the job, but it’s without a doubt one of the most necessary.
When a writer brings their finished story to an editor, they are also expected to bring with them copies of all interviews, notes, records and documents — basically all the ingredients of the story. After reading through the story in its entirety, they embark on the often-grueling process of fact-checking every line in the story.
It’s not uncommon to see a reporter and their editor sitting side-by-side listening to a grainy audio file to make sure they transcribed the right word. We know that if we get that word wrong, it can throw into question our credibility.
And we know full well that there is no room for mistakes when it comes to the news. Our digital managing editor puts it well: We’re in the business of facts.
Sometimes, of course, we slip up. Maybe a name was misspelled the second time we mentioned it in the story and the editor was in a hurry while they were fact-checking.
Or there are the times when reporters dealing with daunting quantities of data make mistakes in their math — trust me, you won’t find many mathematically gifted reporters in any newsroom — and those mistakes throw off statistics in their stories.
The moment we find out we made a factual mistake, we take full accountability and correct it. Any story that has been modified will have a big, bold “correction appended” right below the headline, as well as an explanation at the bottom of the story detailing what went wrong and how we fixed it.
Although we’ve always been proud of our high standards for accuracy, we feel that in this day and age, it’s especially important to be transparent about our methods. We’re lucky, in a sense, that as a college publication, we’re rarely attacked with the “fake news” labels that larger publications have been dealt.
We are aware, however, that we sometimes publish stories that make people upset or uncomfortable. And to that end, I’ll refer back to what I mentioned earlier — we’re in the business of facts. We’re not in the business of telling you how to feel, what to think or how to react to information that you might disagree with.
I’ve always admired the motto of the E.W. Scripps Company: “Give light and the people will find their own way.”
You, as the reader, get to find your own way. You get to decide how to respond to the information we provide. It’s our job to give you the facts of the story.
And it all starts with getting it right.
Lauren Fisher is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University and the editor-in-chief of The Post. Have questions? Email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet her .