Fact checker

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Journalist, Reporter, Editor, News presenter, Photo Journalist, Columnist, Visual Journalist

A fact checker is a person whose job consists of checking factual assertions made in news copy to determine whether they are correct. This job requires general knowledge but more importantly it requires the ability to conduct research quickly and properly.

The resources and time necessary for fact-checking are considerable. As a consequence, this work cannot be applied to copy filed on a daily basis. For this reason, fact-checking is not commonly done at most newspapers, where reporters' ability to correct and verify their own information in a timely manner is chief among their qualifications. News sources that publish on a weekly, monthly or less frequent basis are more likely to employ fact-checkers than are daily newspapers.

Fact-checking, officially known as "research" at most major publications, is most critical for those publishing material written by authors who are not trained reporters—these writers are more likely to make professional, ethical, or merely factual mistakes. The methods employed in fact-checking vary from publication to publication. Some have neither the staff nor the budget necessary to verify every claim in a given article. Others will attempt to do just that, and go as far as contacting sources and authors in order to review the content of their statements as related in the piece.

Fact-checking is also distinctive to American publications. British and European magazines and newspapers may have editors tasked specifically with correcting spelling and performing superficial verification, but do not employ fact-checkers as such. Fact-checking is a typical entry level position at major magazines. Fact-checker jobs at The New Yorker are considered prestigious and can lead to higher positions there or at other magazines.

Among the benefits of printing only checked copy is that this practice can avert serious and sometimes costly problems—such as lawsuits and discreditation. Fact checkers are primarily useful in catching accidental mistakes; they are not a guarantee against journalistic frauds like Stephen Glass (who began his own career as a fact-checker). The fact checkers at The New Republic and other weeklies never flagged the numerous fictions in reportage he submitted. Michael Kelly, who edited some of the concocted stories, blamed himself, rather than the fact-checkers:

"Any fact-checking system is built on trust. . . . If a reporter is willing to fake notes, it defeats the system. Anyway, the real vetting system is not fact-checking but the editor."[1]

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Fact checker

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