Monday, July 14, 2008

Fact checking w/ Patti Wolter

Described as a copious enterprise, fact-checking was our latest lesson at the Academy of Alternative Journalism. It was facilitated by Patti Wolter, an assistant professor at Medill, who was once a managing editor at Mother Jones magazine.

Wolter showed us just how important and tedious a process it can be, even to the smallest fact it can have serious repercussions at a major weekly or monthly publication. Is his name spelled correctly, was it raining that day, are the lights bright or dimmed, did he shoot the gun with his right or left hand?

These questions and a whole lot more should dominate the mind of any species of journalist whether you're an op-ed columnist, daily reporter, television anchor or magazine writer. We're the ones who should be prudent with the story in our hands enough to be as accurate as possible. Especially in an age of bloggers and citizen journalists, fact-checking means from spelling of names to government documents you have someone who certifies what the reporter wrote was factual.

Just to show us how important fact-checking is to the craft of journalism Wolter showed up as clip of Shattered Glass, which is based on the true story of Stephen Glass, a fraudulent reporter who worked for The New Republic in the late 1990s. Basically Glass exploited the holes in the fact-checking system and wrote at least 27 stories where he made up sources, quotes and people. And we all know about the infamous Jayson Blair.

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