Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Righting all the wrongs

When I started out as a copy editor, before the Internet was available on every desktop (yep, true!), the one thing I hated about my job fact-checking. Fact-checking meant hauling myself over to the bookshelf in the newsroom and pulling out an almanac, or an encyclopedia, or—I don't know—a bird identification field guide or something and spending 10 minutes trying to find some obscure bit of trivia in some part of the story that was probably going to end up cut anyway (I worked for Gannett, which rarely gave its readers any credit for any kind of attention span—but it did at least still care about accuracy).

I was so happy when, four or five years into my career, the Internet came to all the newsroom computers. Fact-checking was just a matter of learning how to use a crazy new tool called a "search engine," and it was a breeze. All that information! At the push of a button!

Of course that sort of golden age of fact-checking was rather short-lived, and you've probably guessed where I'm going with this, but I'm going to just say it anyway since I've gotten this far and am proud of myself for not yet having used the phrase "these days."

Fact-checking is still not that difficult—as long as you use discernment and critical thinking skills as well as buttons—but it's wasting my life all over again, because every single thing you read on the Internet now is in error, biased, taken out of context, unsubstantiated, or just made up.

I know it would be easier to just not believe anything ever and get on with my life, but when people blithely pass misinformation around it nags at me in some deep-seated, former-journalisty way that I can't really explain, and even if I don't try to correct them, I usually look it up so at least I'll know the truth. It's lonely, these days, caring about accuracy.


  1. "everything single thing you read..."

  2. The dawn of the internet when its content was from universities. This internet is more entertaining, but I miss the encyclopedic content.