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Lessons in PR: The Lowdown on Fact-Checking

We live in the digital age where information gets pumped out 24/7.

Always fact check your work to avoid embarrassing mistakes like this one made by ESPN (just so you know that’s Minnesota, not Wisconsin). – Photo Credit by Darren Rovall on WhoSay

Have you ever stopped to think about how much of it is true?

This week in class, I learned about the importance of fact-checking and the best way to fact-check when writing  today.

A key step to fact-checking is knowing what information needs to be fact-checked. A few examples of information to always check are dates, names, historical persons and events, formal titles, and geographic locations! Websites like infoplease.com serve as great resources for checking facts like these.

Another tip to help with fact-checking is to stick with a particular style guide. When I am writing an article, I use a slew of resources to check things out but I always refer to the Associated Press Stylebook for formatting. When information needs to be checked, I do research and then put my research against the AP style format to make sure that my references are correct.

** Update Oct. 2, 2013

Applied

On behalf of my newsletter client, Transfer2Terp, a University of Maryland student organization, I would use resources provided through the university to do research and fact-checking work. I would use the official University of Maryland employee databases to contact individuals who have information about the makeup of the university’s transfer student population.  Regarding the research on individuals, I would check the featured information provided by those individuals and I would also contact them about the accuracy of the writing before the newsletter is published.

**

To help with your own fact-checking, here are some quick and dirty tips from a book called Creative Editing by Dorothy A. Bowles and Diane L. Borden.

  • #7 – Never assume anything!
  • #14 – Always use the tools available to you
  • Test all links, phone numbers in a story after you have typed them in.
  • #32 – Always go back and read the full sentence if you’ve changed a word or two in the copy.
  • #34 – In doubt? Always call the reporter, wire service or even the source.

With all the advice for fact-checking, a solid bottom line would be the popular saying, “When in doubt, check it out!”

7 Signs You’re a PR Major

PR students stay connected. Photo Courtesy of Apple.com

Every college major or department comes with its own inside jokes and quirks that only its students and faculty understand.  Public Relations is no exception. In fact, PR is probably one of the least talked about majors in college. To take away from the “mystery,” I want to let you all in on the inside story of the PR major’s life.

Here are seven signs that you’re a PR major.

7. Sleep is the one thing that never gets crossed off your to-do list. No rest for the heavy-laden and PR majors, contrary to popular belief, are.

6. When lstening to students form other majors talk about they’re lives , you struggle to reesist kriticizing there grammer. Brownie points to anyone that identifies all the grammatical errors in this sentence. Double points for proper editing marks.

5. You understand how a 500-word news story can take just as long to write as a 1500-word essay. First, you write then you edit. Then you write again and edit. Then you send it off to the editor who edits it and gives it back to you to write … again. See a pattern forming?

4. You’re so literate in SEO that you can find info on anybody. Literally. See that hot TA in the English class? Got his email, LinkedIn and Facebook in less than five minutes with some constructive “Google” searching (don’t pretend like you don’t do this — fact checking at its finest).

3. You get the “It’s not what you know, but who you know” lecture at least 20 times in a given semester.  Friendliness and gratitude go a long way when making professional connections (those thank you notes make a difference!).

2. Your professors reprimand you for NOT using social media in class. “Twitter for Good,” anyone?

Finally…

1. You start blogging solely for the purposes of building up your online presence. I’m just kidding with this one, but honestly, if I wasn’t a PR major, I wouldn’t be blogging. I am so grateful that it inspired me to start.

Did I leave anything out? Let me know what you would put on a list of  the life of a PR major in the comments below.

Thanks!

– Imani