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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.

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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!”