4 Ways to Make Sure Your Facts Are Bulletproof

by on Jul.24, 2011, under In the News, What's New

A story written for the Radio Television Digital News Association:

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Facts Are Bulletproof
Apr 05 2011
By Lynn Walsh, Texas Watchdog & RTDNA Blogger

If it’s on the internet or television it has to be true, right?

I hope we all know the answer to that question.

Or how about all the people you have heard justify something they have said with one of the following statements: “But I saw it on the news..That’s what they said on the radio this morning…But, I read it in the newspaper.”

While I believe in journalism and journalists, I am not sure I can say that just because something is covered by the news and appears in the news it is ALWAYS true. I do believe that most journalists go above and beyond to fact-check their stories but sometimes things slip through the cracks. And I would argue more often than not it happens when using the internet or online sources to verify the facts in a story.

Here are some ways to make sure your facts are bulletproof.

1. Pick up the phone. The best way to be sure of something sometimes is to just ask. While e-mail can be quicker and is a favorite way to communicate for many, facts, names and general information can get jumbled in the back and forth. So, just take a few minutes and reach out to a source or interview subject by phone. Whether it is to quickly double-check the spelling of their name or to get a quote 100 percent correct, it can save time and put your mind at ease. Sometimes the phone conversation can lead to other story ideas as well!

2. Do research on your sources. The internet is great: it’s fast, fun and full of information. Use it to learn more about the people you are quoting or using in your stories. From their Facebook profiles to their Twitter postings, you can learn a lot about the person in your story by what they are posting online. Sometimes social media profiles can be more honest and eye-opening about what a person is really like than any conversation or interview with them.

3. Validate/verify other news reports. And always make sure to credit them. We all know to cite and give credit to where the facts or information in our stories come from, but remember to also do a little digging yourself. Just because another station says something does not mean it is true. Do the leg work and make a few phone calls to the sources in their stories on top of crediting the news organization you are getting the information from.

4. Call other reporters. This is something that can be extremely valuable to you as a reporter. If you are thinking about or considering covering a story but want to know more about it and someone has already covered it, who better to ask than the reporter who already spent time on the story? They normally have a lot of background information that can be summed up in a short phone conversation. Sometimes they are even willing to share documents or contact information of potential sources with you.

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