“So, do you like…write?” is the question I get after telling someone where I work. “No…I’m an editor,” I repeat. “…so I edit.” I like saying I’m an editor, even if I’m not one in the strictest sense, or what people imagine based on movies like The Devil Wears Prada, His Girl Friday, or Shattered Glass. I do work with writers, and sources, and editors, but I’m 24, and I don’t make any big decisions. (I tried to last week, it didn’t hold.) But in the past few weeks there has been a lot of hullabaloo about journalistic integrity in the news—how meta!—from Jonah Lehrer (The New Republic) to Fareed Zakaria (Time) to Niall Ferguson (Newsweek), so I thought it’d be apropos for me to wrap a bow around my typical 9-to-5. And if you’re too lazy to read, you can just watch the trailer for the ultimate movie about fact checking, Shattered Glass.
From The Atlantic:
Good fact-checkers have a preternatural inclination toward pedantry, and sometimes will address you in a prosecutorial tone. That is their job and the adversarial tone is even more important than the actual facts they correct….fact-checkers serve as a valuable check to prevent writers from lapsing into the kind of arrogant laziness which breeds plagiarism and the manufacture of facts. The fact-checker (and the copy-editor too actually) is a dam against you embarrassing yourself, or worse, being so arrogant that don’t even realize you’ve embarrassed yourself.
From The New York Times:
“Hi, John. I’m Jim Fingal, who’s been assigned to fact-check your article about Las Vegas, and I’ve discovered a small discrepancy between the number of strip clubs you’re claiming there are in Las Vegas and the number that’s given in your supporting documents.” To which D’Agata responded: “Hi, Jim. I think maybe there’s some sort of miscommunication, because the ‘article,’ as you call it, is fine. It shouldn’t need a fact-checker; at least that was my understanding with the editor I’ve been working with. I have taken some liberties in the essay here and there, but none of them are harmful.”
From The New Yorker:
“Each word in the piece that has even a shred of fact clinging to it is scrutinized, and, if passed, given the checker’s imprimatur, which consists of a tiny pencil tick.”