Fact-checking is not for the faint of heart

Make sure everything in an article is correct. Sounds easy, right? I mean, you’re dealing with seasoned journalists, not con artists or third graders. Forget everything you’ve learned in your j-school editing class or your magazine internship. Whatever fact-checking you did there is only the beginning. Unless, of course, you learned how to fact-check at The New Yorker.

“Few things in the world of magazines are the subject of as much lore as the New Yorker’s fact checking department,” wrote Craig Silverman last week on his Regret The Error blog, where he recalled interviewing two fact-checkers from The New Yorker, only one of which would speak on the record.

Silverman also posted several videos of Peter Canby’s keynote speech at a recent fact-checking conference in Germany, where Silverman also spoke. Canby, head of the fact-checking department and senior editor at The New Yorker, spoke of the checker hiring process, the expectations the magazine has for its checkers and the value of fact-checking.

The videos are short, and definitely worth a watch, especially since young j-school grads who want to enter a career in the magazine biz will likely start off fact-checking, and if you’ve never done it before, the process of checking can be a bit of a shock. (I still only-somewhat-fondly recall the first major piece I ever fact-checked (after one or two small front-of-book pieces): a 5,000-word essay on the history of the NDP. That one still gives me nightmares.) But it’s a valuable skill to have, and one that will make you much more attractive to potential employers.