The Importance of fact checking

Thu, 01/10/2015 - 11:06

99% of South Africans believe that fact checking is pointless.

The statement above is questionable.

Irrespective of the fact that the statement has no source, it also leaves doubt lingering whether it is true or not. Many find statistics or other relevant information online and accept it at face value.

Let’s say Tim makes up his own statistics based on his perspective of his surroundings. Tim then publishes his work as factual, leaving out the part where some of his work is fabricated. Then Peter comes along, he has a big presentation to do and needs to find information fast. He is a well-known public figure and many people think highly of his opinion, so it’s very important that he gets things right.

Peter finds Tim’s made-up statistics, and presents the findings as his own. Not knowing that he is about to fall flat on his face of embarrassment. The moment the false facts are properly sourced and verified, Peter is left with people who now questions his motives, all because Tim posted fabricated facts. But who is really at fault? Unfortunately, that would be Peter. Even if the work was not initially posted by him, it’s his responsibility to verify every single bit of information he wants to use.

Fact checking and content marketing

How would this translate in content marketing? When you are producing content on behalf of a brand, it is very important that every fact is checked and double checked. If there is a mistake somewhere in the content, it’s not the individual copywriter or the content marketing agency that gets the full brunt of them blame. It is the brand’s reputation that suffers.

The problem we have today

In our digital age, news gets spread fast, but the problem with that is there is little time to check facts. There is a lot of pressure on newsrooms to run with heated information they come across, especially when they have to consider that other agencies might beat them to the punch. In news it’s all about who is first. What’s more, it’s not just media professionals putting content out there. Anyone nowadays can set up a blog and be a publisher and it’s simply not practical for there to be a regulatory body making sure that everything published online is verified.

In this fast-paced and broken telephone landscape, fact checking is more important than ever.

Who said it and how do they know?

The most important questions to ask are the ones that will lead you to legitimate answers. You will need to know how to verify facts. It’s not rocket science; all it takes is diligence and an open mind. Sometimes the most unlikely sources are the most powerful.

Take special consideration for information that is shared via social media sites. If you do happen to quote, ensure that you are not quoting from a parody twitter account. The moment media organisations share inaccurate information, their credibility immediately fall and they become unreliable sources of information.

Always try to find the original source of facts, because it’s amazing how they can get distorted through broken telephone. It is also good to not only look at the facts, but the context around them. This is especially true when quoting statistics.

Some might even ask, where’s the harm in letting it slip? The harm comes when a lie becomes factual and gets distributed all around the world. It becomes like a chain letter that spreads to all corners of the earth and there is really no simple way to change facts after that. In the best interest of all parties involved go beyond the source and find out where they got their information from. The task will not be that daunting if it becomes habit.

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