In conventional journalism, diligent fact-checking is a given. In a latest piece I wrote on abortion, the editor required that I confirm each statistic, declare, or knowledge level with a information supply or skilled.
Relating to freelance content material advertising, nevertheless, the parameters are sometimes much less clear. This sort of work will not be journalism, strictly talking. When a model is behind a narrative, there’s bias concerned. However that doesn’t imply that every one journalistic rigor ought to exit the window. Reality-checking continues to be a vital a part of the method.
“Reality-checking for my content material advertising tales is simply as important as it's for my editorial work,” mentioned Anna Dimond, a journalist, content material creator, and producer. “What separates glorious content material advertising from the mediocre, partially, is care and a spotlight to element. I deal with each story as a priceless supply of data for readers—and a priceless gateway to a model.”
Let’s check out why advertising writers and editors ought to take fact-checking critically—and the way they'll achieve this with out spending all day, day-after-day trying up stats and references.
Why accuracy in content material advertising is vital
Whether or not I’m penning a reported piece, ghostwriting, or composing a weblog submit for a model, there are a couple of fact-checking measures I all the time take. Some are apparent, like ensuring I’m spelling names proper and getting sources’ pronouns right. I additionally guarantee I’m citing research precisely and attributing quotes from interviews to the fitting folks.
However after that, it will get extra nuanced. As a content material marketer, what’s my duty to double-check that info cited in a third-party article is correct? Do I have to parse the nice print of a scientific examine each time I cite a statistic? Though the solutions aren’t all the time clear-cut, Dimond famous that accuracy is a big a part of a author’s—and a model’s—credibility.
“The extra dependable and high-quality [the content] is for readers, the extra it confers belief in and worth of the model behind it,” Dimond mentioned. “If a reader can’t rely on the essential details of a weblog submit, it’s a transparent message that they'll’t belief the model.”
In a quickly evolving digital media panorama, reader belief is valuable. At the moment’s newsfeeds are so rife with “faux information” that the perimeters between reality and fiction are sometimes blurry. Whenever you fail to take the required precautions, it not solely creates a credibility situation, however might also perpetuate misinformation.
Reality-checking turns into much more vital whenever you’re writing about delicate subjects. At the moment, many manufacturers attempt to inform various views and amplify underrepresented narratives. In these circumstances, it’s vital to get the main points proper. Dimond recalled writing a bit about how the dad and mom of transgender kids have translated their parenting classes into enterprise and management selections. She referred to as the fact-checking course of for the story “intricate.”
“However in the long run, it represented [the sources] and their tales in methods they wished, whereas underscoring the model’s depth, compassion, and care,” she mentioned, including that it additionally helped set up belief together with her sources and strengthened her relationship with the editor. “I’m actually happy with the remaining product.”
A remaining motive to be vigilant about accuracy in advertising is that there could also be authorized ramifications for spreading misinformation. Many corporations that rent freelancers embrace indemnification clauses of their contracts, which means that the author could also be on the hook ought to a lawsuit end result from their revealed work. The very last thing a author needs to consider is constructing a authorized protection as a result of they didn’t appropriately fact-check a declare in a bit that wrestles with ambiguities.
Reality-checking fundamentals and greatest practices
Placing a bit out into the world realizing it incorporates no factual errors is about extra than simply peace of thoughts. “It’s about bulletproofing your work,” mentioned Amy George, former Related Press reporter and founding father of By George Communications.
As a freelancer, every of your shoppers can have a distinct fact-checking coverage (or lack thereof). Chances are you'll be liable for the method, or the publication could have in-house fact-checkers who deal with it.
Should you’ll be liable for the duty, you’ll wish to have a grip on the fundamentals, which embrace combing by the doc and verifying names are spelled appropriately, tutorial levels are correct, and titles are updated. Double-check dates, areas, and timelines, and make certain that any claims you’ve made are verifiable. Word all third-party-sourced info by way of hyperlink or remark.
There are a couple of normal “guidelines” to citing sources, too: At the start, by no means depend on Wikipedia. Secondly, don’t copy/paste statistics from one other publication with out verifying the info within the authentic examine or report. Lastly, if the data comes from social media, make certain it’s true earlier than you regurgitate it in print or on-line. When doubtful, discover one other supply to quote.
Relating to citing research, it’s vital to take a look at them with a vital eye. You may learn the chief abstract to determine when the examine was carried out and the standards used. George really helpful asking the next questions: Is it an unbiased examine? When and the way was it carried out? How reliable is the supply? Are there any potential conflicts of curiosity?
Should you’re engaged on a bit that includes authentic reporting, there are proactive steps you possibly can take throughout interviews to make the fact-checking course of simpler afterward. Be sure to file the interview (let the supply know you’re doing this primary). Websites like Otter.AI or Rev may also help with the transcription, however it’s a good suggestion to pay attention by the audio your self and cross-reference the transcript’s textual content earlier than cementing quotes in your story.
Lastly, whenever you’re writing the content material, match the precise quote with the recording to find out for those who’ve phrased it appropriately in your copy. For each authentic supply, notice the individual’s identify, electronic mail, and telephone quantity in case the editor or fact-checker needs to contact them immediately. To be additional protected, give your sources a heads up in regards to the details/figures that immediately pertain to them earlier than the story goes reside, and provides them the chance to right any inaccuracies.
Reality-checking sources and instruments
There are a ton of sources on the market to assist writers confirm info. Beneath are a couple of of the commonest and useful.
- AP Reality Test, Related Press: The AP supplies useful accountability sources for journalists.
- Snopes: One of many oldest fact-checking providers round, Snopes helps fight misinformation and disinformation, notably when it considerations viral posts, city legends, hoaxes, or folklore.
- PolitiFact: Established by the Poynter Institute, PolitiFact addresses inquiries concerning political claims.
- Media Bias/Reality Test: The MBFC screens media bias on numerous web sites. Its evaluation focuses on political affiliations, biased phrase decisions, and sourcing.
- Washington Submit Reality Checker: The respected media outlet affords a fact-checking touchdown web page, in addition to a publication that myth-busts unfaithful or deceptive rumors circulating on-line.
- SciCheck: This website fact-checks false and deceptive scientific claims made by people to affect public coverage.
For writers who wish to hone their fact-checking abilities additional, there are a number of programs out there. The Test, Please! Starter Course, partially funded by RTI Worldwide and the Rita Allen Basis by way of the Misinformation Options Discussion board Prize, is a free, five-lesson course for rookies. Poynter Institute affords a Arms-On Reality-Checking course that focuses on figuring out dependable sources, debunking viral misinformation, and deciding whether or not a press release is credible; it takes about 90 minutes to finish and prices $14.95. The Knight Middle additionally affords a Disinformation and Reality-Checking in Occasions of COVID-19 course at no cost.
Lastly, for those who’re extra of a visible learner, YouTuber John Inexperienced has partnered with the Poynter Institute and Stanford Historical past Training Group to share a set of YouTube movies on fact-checking and figuring out digital disinformation.
Understand that at the same time as a marketer, the written phrase holds energy: Your explicit piece could inform a reader’s choice or nudge them to alter course indirectly. Making certain correct particulars helps inform the larger image, whether or not for a journalistic publication or a company entity.