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 professional.
On the subject of freelance content material advertising, nevertheless, the parameters are sometimes much less clear. Any such work isn’t journalism, strictly talking. When a model is behind a narrative, there’s bias concerned. However that doesn’t imply that each one journalistic rigor ought to exit the window. Reality-checking continues to be a important a part of the method.
“Reality-checking for my content material advertising tales is simply as important as it’s for my editorial work,” stated 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 precious supply of knowledge for readers—and a precious gateway to a model.”
Let’s check out why advertising writers and editors ought to take fact-checking severely—and the way they will achieve this with out spending all day, day-after-day trying up stats and references.
Why accuracy in content material advertising is necessary
Whether or not I’m penning a reported piece, ghostwriting, or composing a weblog publish for a model, there are a number of fact-checking measures I at all times take. Some are apparent, like ensuring I’m spelling names proper and getting sources’ pronouns appropriate. I additionally guarantee I’m citing research precisely and attributing quotes from interviews to the precise folks.
However after that, it will get extra nuanced. As a content material marketer, what’s my duty to double-check that data cited in a third-party article is correct? Do I have to parse the fantastic print of a scientific examine each time I cite a statistic? Though the solutions aren’t at all times clear-cut, Dimond famous that accuracy is a large 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 stated. “If a reader can’t rely upon the essential details of a weblog publish, it’s a transparent message that they will’t belief the model.”
In a rapidly evolving digital media landscape, reader belief is valuable. Right this moment’s newsfeeds are so rife with “faux information” that the sides between truth and fiction are sometimes blurry. Once you fail to take the required precautions, it not solely creates a credibility subject, however may additionally perpetuate misinformation.
Reality-checking turns into much more necessary while you’re writing about delicate subjects. Right this moment, many manufacturers try to inform various views and amplify underrepresented narratives. In these circumstances, it’s important to get the main points proper. Dimond recalled writing a chunk about how the mother and father 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 needed, whereas underscoring the model’s depth, compassion, and care,” she stated, 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 final product.”
A remaining motive to be vigilant about accuracy in advertising is that there could also be authorized ramifications for spreading misinformation. Many firms that rent freelancers embrace indemnification clauses of their contracts, that means that the author could also be on the hook ought to a lawsuit consequence from their revealed work. The very last thing a author desires to consider is constructing a authorized protection as a result of they didn’t appropriately fact-check a declare in a chunk that wrestles with ambiguities.
Reality-checking fundamentals and finest practices
Placing a chunk out into the world realizing it accommodates no factual errors is about extra than simply peace of thoughts. “It’s about bulletproofing your work,” stated Amy George, former Related Press reporter and founding father of By George Communications.
As a freelancer, every of your purchasers can have a special fact-checking coverage (or lack thereof). You might be answerable for the method, or the publication could have in-house fact-checkers who deal with it.
When you’ll be answerable for the duty, you’ll need to have a grip on the fundamentals, which embrace combing by means of the doc and verifying names are spelled appropriately, educational levels are correct, and titles are updated. Double-check dates, places, and timelines, and make certain that any claims you’ve made are verifiable. Observe all third-party-sourced data by way of hyperlink or remark.
There are a number of normal “guidelines” to citing sources, too: At the beginning, by no means depend on Wikipedia. Secondly, don’t copy/paste statistics from one other publication with out verifying the information within the authentic examine or report. Lastly, if the data comes from social media, ensure it’s true earlier than you regurgitate it in print or on-line. When unsure, discover one other supply to quote.
On the subject of citing research, it’s necessary to have a look at them with a important eye. You’ll be able to learn the chief abstract to determine when the examine was carried out and the factors used. George advisable asking the next questions: Is it an impartial examine? When and the way was it carried out? How reliable is the supply? Are there any potential conflicts of curiosity?
When you’re engaged on a chunk that includes authentic reporting, there are proactive steps you may take throughout interviews to make the fact-checking course of simpler afterward. Be sure to report the interview (let the supply know you’re doing this primary). Websites like Otter.AI or Rev can assist with the transcription, but it surely’s a good suggestion to pay attention by means of the audio your self and cross-reference the transcript’s textual content earlier than cementing quotes in your story.
Lastly, while you’re writing the content material, match the precise quote with the recording to find out should you’ve phrased it appropriately in your copy. For each authentic supply, notice the particular person’s title, electronic mail, and telephone quantity in case the editor or fact-checker desires to contact them immediately. To be additional protected, give your sources a heads up concerning the details/figures that immediately pertain to them earlier than the story goes reside, and provides them the chance to appropriate any inaccuracies.
Reality-checking assets and instruments
There are a ton of assets on the market to assist writers confirm data. Under are a number of of the most typical and useful.
- AP Fact Check, Associated Press: The AP gives useful accountability assets for journalists.
- Snopes: One of many oldest fact-checking companies 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/Fact Check: The MBFC screens media bias on varied web sites. Its evaluation focuses on political affiliations, biased phrase selections, and sourcing.
- Washington Post Fact Checker: The respected media outlet provides a fact-checking touchdown web page, in addition to a publication that myth-busts unfaithful or deceptive rumors circulating on-line.
- SciCheck: This web site fact-checks false and deceptive scientific claims made by people to affect public coverage.
Needless to say whilst a marketer, the written phrase holds energy: Your specific piece could inform a reader’s determination or nudge them to alter course ultimately. Making certain correct particulars helps inform the larger image, whether or not for a journalistic publication or a company entity.