Verifying Facts

Fact-checking is a vital way to build trust, defend our work, and check the creep of biases. It means asking, “What do we know, really? And how do we know it?” This collection offers practical suggestions for bulletproofing your work on deadline, plugging holes in a long-term project, and testing a data analysis. It also includes writing about the fundamental ideas behind verification as well as why it is so important that we make time for fact-checking our own work.


  1. The Lesson from the Dress Color Debate That Every Journalist Needs to Know

    By Craig Silverman, Poynter

    One of the leading thinkers on verification in journalism is Craig Silverman, formerly of Poynter and BuzzFeed. In this piece, he uses the infamous internet debate about the color of a dress to explain how our brains are rigged against us, why it is so easy to make errors inadvertently, and what we can do to check our work for those flaws.

  2. The New Yorker’s Chief Fact-Checker on How to Get Things Right in the Era of ‘Post-Truth’

    By Shelley Hepworth, Columbia Journalism Review

    Magazines—specifically, Time and the New Yorker—are widely credited with developing the form of tedious fact-checking that became a profession unto itself after a major court case. It has not been as popular among reporters at newspapers, TV stations, and digital outlets. In a recent talk, Peter Canby, “a stalwart of the legendary fact-checking department of The New Yorker,” reviewed the history of the work at that publication since 1978 and under three editors.

  3. Online Media Are More a Part of the Problem of Misinformation ‘Than They Are the Solution’

    By Kristen Hare, Poynter

    In this Poynter piece, Kristen Hare summarizes key takeaways from a report about what’s at stake when we don’t verify stories before we run them online, or when we attempt to debunk rumors but instead reinforce them.

  4. Brooke Borel talks about The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking

    By Brooke Borel, CMOS Shop Talk

    Science writer and journalist Brooke Borel wrote one of the most recent books about how to fact check, The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking. In this Q&A, she discusses how the internet has changed verification strategies, why publishers should invest in the work, and what the future might hold for the profession.

  5. New Research Details How Journalists Verify Information

    By Craig Silverman, Poynter

    A research report that surveyed Canadian journalists about their strategies for fact-checking stories found that “there is no single standard for verification, and not every fact is treated the same.” It is an interesting piece to spark self-reflection about the decisions you make day-to-day and how your strategies compare to those of your colleagues.

  6. Calculating the Work Behind Our Work

    By Louise Kiernan, ProPublica

    In this column, ProPublica Illinois Editor-in-Chief Louise Kiernan takes readers behind the curtain to see the “invisible costs” of fulfilling the nonprofit’s mission for transparency, detailing the lengths some reporters have gone to know their work is both unassailable and fair.

  7. How Do We Keep Bias Out of Stories?

    By Jason Grotto, ProPublica

    In this column that answers reader questions, Jason Grotto of ProPublica Illinois explains how he works to prevent bias from seeping into his stories, providing several good strategies for verification work that can be done before final publication review.

  8. Checklist Charlie

    By Craig Silverman, Columbia Journalism Review

    This is where we start to get into the meat of practical strategies to incorporate verification into your regular routine, whether it’s a big project or a daily story. Silverman argues that journalists should adopt checklists that have curbed errors in other professions. He includes links to sample lists that are being used these days.

  9. Why Journalism Professors Should Teach Accuracy Checklists

    By Steve Buttry, MediaShift

    Once you’ve decided you want to make a checklist, this is a good place to start. Steve Buttry, from the Louisiana State University Manship School of Mass Communication, shares his personal checklist and practical pointers, and he calls on journalism schools to include accuracy checklists in training.

  10. Verification Handbook

    By various authors, including Craig Silverman, Claire Wardle & Malachy Browne

    Be prepared the next time your newsroom has a breaking story, whether it’s a mass shooting or a hurricane. Here’s a free verification handbook, including a section on how to manage user-generated tips and photos.

  11. Fact-Checking: Strategies for Writers, Reporters and Data Analysts

    By Jayme Fraser

    Frustrated with repeatedly explaining the basics of how I do my job, I recently started sharing behind-the-scenes tweets with #WhatReportersDo. In one of those threads, I shared how I use pens and highlighters to fact-check a story based on about 1,700 pages of public records, as well as some of the words that often cause headaches. When others started sharing their own tricks, I compiled them into this Google Doc. If there’s an idea you think I should add, let me know.

  12. Quartz Experiment: Shades of Gray Distinguish Facts from Hearsay

    By Craig Silverman, Poynter

    When reporters are unsure about information we report, we try to signal that uncertainty to readers: “alleged” crime, “possible” project, “tentative” proposal, “unverified” witness accounts, etc. It’s easy for readers to miss those hints. For a story about HBO launching an online subscription service, Quartz experimented with using visual clues to reinforce for readers how certain they were about particular details. The simple, shaded solution made it easier for readers to distinguish rumors from informed speculation or verified facts.

  13. Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning in a Digital World

    By Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West, University of Washington

    Two professors at the University of Washington in Seattle created a course titled “Calling Bullshit” because they were sick of the spread of bad information. In the class, they train students to recognize bullshit. In particular, they focus on common errors of logic, bad statistics, and bias. They’ve posted the course’s readings and lessons online.

  14. Books About Fact-Checking

    By Jayme Fraser

    BONUS: On Goodreads, I’ve compiled a list of books about fact-checking or journalistic integrity more broadly, including most of those mentioned in the above links. If there’s one I should add, send me a message on Twitter or the platform of your choice.


Jayme Fraser is an investigative reporter for the Malheur Enterprise in Oregon working on a yearlong project as part of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network. She previously worked in Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Texas, covering local, state, federal and tribal governments. Recently, she helped lead a collaboration between the Missoulian and the University of Montana School of Journalism to investigate why Montana provides poor care to pregnant women who seek help for drug use. She plays nerdy board games, plays fetch with two conures, and roots for the Portland Timbers and Thorns.

Current page