The Importance of Fact-Checking
I considered calling this “Journalism 101: Fact-checking,” because it really is one of the most important, and basic, skills any writer can have. First things first, I’m going to go over why it is important.
This might seem like common sense to some people, but we all know that common sense is surprisingly rare. If there is an obvious or easily discernible hole in your story, someone will notice it. If you are writing anything of important, which most things are to SOMEONE, they are likely to tell people that you are wrong and why. They might even angrily push on to inform you of your misgivings. From that point on, anything and everything you write will be under immense scrutiny by anyone who knew you were wrong. This is the best possible scenario. At worst, they will completely disregard any of your future writings as poorly researched.
Fact-checking pertains to a great many things and varies in difficultly immensely. Sometimes it is a simple matter of checking a date and making sure you have a person’s birthday correct. These can be easily accomplished with a simple web-search (using reliable sources) or just by asking someone who is likely to know (and is credible).
When it comes to more detailed research, fact-checking can become considerably more difficult. If you are researching a big story that involves some semi-secretive information, sources of valid intel might be more difficult to acquire. You might have to talk to many different sources before finding an appropriate and useful one. You should also run through the concepts behind the fact in your head to make sure they are at least mildly sensible. If you have people claiming they invented some super-secret device before they were able to walk, you might have to go back and reexamine your sources.
It is important to note that books are an underrated and extremely useful source material. I’m obviously not talking about teen dramas here (unless you are writing about teen drama books, of course.) Reference books and non-fiction works can provide a lot of information in a precise and efficient manner, if they are well written. They tend to be fairly credible since they should have already been fact checked before being published. It is important to remember older media even while embracing the new.
It is all about your credibility as a writer; your brand, if you will. If you want to be taken seriously and maintain readers, make sure you are checking what you write. A little extra work now can do wonders for the rest of your writing life.