Who checks on the Fact Checkers : A comparative study of attitudes to fact checking in the UK and US
Much attention has been given in recent years to post publication fact checking, mainly checking the facts quoted by political leaders. But more important to journalists is pre-publication fact checking – getting it right in the first place. Many people will tell you that when they read about something that they know a lot about they are frequently frustrated by minor errors such as the spelling of names or places, or calling someone a Democrat when they are a Republican. These errors may be minor but they tend to cause the reader or viewer to call into question everything else in the story. Even the most esteemed publications and broadcasters make mistakes, judging from the frequent columns of corrections, some of which have been mandated by the industry regulators or even the courts. It is no wonder that politicians can hide their own dissembling by accusing the media of publishing “fake news”. In the UK there is a widespread notion that US publishers employ an army of fact checkers to check everything before it is published or aired. In the US the perception is that UK publishers do not care enough about accuracy to employ specific fact checkers. This comparative study aims to identify exactly what are the policies and protocols of fact checking on the UK against those in the US by speaking to fact checkers in the US and editors in the UK. It asks the important question: if UK publishers do not employ fact checkers then why not? The author argues that training in fact checking is something that has great benefits to students on both sides of the Atlantic and should be incorporated into every Journalism curriculum.