Fact Checking: More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

This Bram Cohen (BitTorrent) piece turns the common complaint about the “lack” of fact checking in media on its head;

After a journalist finishes writing their story, it’s generally sent to a fact checker. Fact checkers serve to avoid embarassing gaffes, such as getting a person’s name wrong, or saying that they work for the wrong employer, or some other such straightforward, objective fact.


The fact checker, unlike the journalist, has usually spent no time researching the subject whatsoever, and so as a lay person reading the story they slightly misinterpret it, then paraphrase their misinterpretation and ask me if it’s correct. Inevitably this bastardized explanation says something grossly misleading or not quite factual, and though I’ve long since learned that I really ought to say ‘yeah, whatever’ and have them leave the story as is, I can never resist the temptation to provide a correction, at which point they go back to the story and rewrite some sentences based on their incorrect understanding of my correction of their paraphrasing of their incorrect understanding of the original explanation. Unsurprisingly, this always makes the explanation worse.

Or, to put it another way – a product of multi-level incompetence.

Kate McMillan
About Kate McMillan
Kate McMillan is the proprietor of small dead animals, which has won numerous awards including Best Conservative Blog and Best Canadian Blog. She contributed nearly 300 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and June 2007. Follow her on Twitter @katewerk.


  1. Kathy K says:

    So, blogs have better fact checkers than the MSM?

  2. Attila Girl says:

    Yeah–each other.

  3. McGehee says:

    What — you mean competition improves quality? Who’da thunk it?

    (Now if someone would just compete with me…)