How being a skeptic can save face

30 Jan

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

If you don’t fact check, you may publish something embarrassing.

Latina Magazine does this all the time. Though I love the magazine, I cringe when it writes that someone is Mexican, when the person is actually Colombian, or something like that. Sometimes it runs corrections. If it runs a correction, it simply edits it, and it doesn’t announce it.  If normal people know this kind of stuff, why can’t a magazine that specializes in Latino(a) people and culture get it right?

It turns out Latina isn’t the only one with correction and fact-checking issues. There was a study done in 2007 stating that “over half of all newspaper articles have some form of mistake in them.” Also, only 2 percent of them are actually corrected.

A paper liker Der Spiegel has 70 full-time fact checkers, while the New Yorker only has 16 fact checkers.

The Slate said in an article that newspapers should expand their area for corrections by 50 percent. For example, The New York Times is known for its constant and “ferocious” rate of misspelling of names.

The New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt estimates the paper misspells about 269 names a year.

For help in fact checking, there are websites dedicated to dispelling urban legends and letting you know whether people are dead or alive. There is even a website to find out whether someone is really a veteran. Others have a list of errors in books, quotes, etc.

Of course, websites are not always necessary to avoid serious mistakes. Sometimes, it is just a matter of taking the time to recalculate to make sure something adds up, or check the spelling with an official document.

When you look at lists or tips for avoiding mistakes, the key to avoiding many of the mistakes is simply, if you aren’t sure enough to put your life on it, don’t be lazy, and check it out. In fact, even if you would put your life on it, check it out. We are humans, and we make mistakes. It is crucial to catch the mistakes before they are diffused into the general public as truth, because once this happens, the cycle of error continues until someone is skeptical enough to check it.

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