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A fact checker is a common job position in the journalism and publishing industries. A fact checker is responsible for verifying all of the facts presented in an article in a magazine, newspaper, or online article, among other forms of print and media journalism. Fact checking is often viewed as an entry-level position, though it takes a high level of skill and attention to detail to be a competent fact checker.
Fact checkers are most commonly employed by magazines, both off- and online, and television news stations. In general, newspapers primarily rely on their writers and reporters to check their own facts, and any errors are theoretically then caught by their editors. The same is often true in book publishing, where publishers typically rely on the authors of the books to get the information right. However, this is not always the case, and some fact checkers may work on newspapers and books as well.
The daily responsibilities of a fact checker are relatively straightforward. He or she will receive one or more documents to work on, which he will have to read and determine what factual information needs to be verified. This can be something as simple as a birth or death date, or as ambiguous as a quote from a source. In many cases, the fact checking will require making numerous phone calls to sources. This can get tricky when a source may want to retract a quote they have made, or rephrase something to make it sound better.
In these cases, a fact checker needs to be able to verify the facts of the quote without allowing the source to change or manipulate the story. Fact checkers need to be able to make informed decisions about what information should be included in a story, staying true to the facts of the story both from an ethical and legal standpoint. In addition to calling sources to verify information, fact checkers need to be excellent researchers, as much of the job entails thoroughly researching information through online databases.
Though a fact checker and copy editor are often referred to interchangeably, they are two different positions. A copy editor may be responsible for verifying facts, but in general, a copy editor is responsible for reading copy to correct errors in grammar, usage, and style, among other parameters. A fact checker must be able to work quickly but accurately, remaining very detail oriented when searching for information; however, they are usually not focused on grammar or style errors.
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