Fact checking is an essential content skill. It's the final thing that should be done with content before it is published. Writing, revising, and editing content can all introduce errors. Numbers, dates, quotes, Web site addresses, and names of people and organizations can end up incorrect. Fact checking ensures that the appropriate corrections are made, but it is a difficult and time-consuming process. Even in traditional publishing, it is often not properly done.
I'm a fan of the songwriter Lou Reed. For years I thought his real name was Louis Firbank, because, in practically every music encyclopedia I read, that was cited as his real name. Then I read an article by legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs on how Lou Reed became Louis Firbank. Bangs had been editor of Creem Magazine, and as a joke he wrote in the letters page that Lou Reed's real name was Firbank. This joke got picked up by one publisher, then another, then another...
The last issue of my "New Thinking" newsletter mentioned a report by the Markle Foundation. Because a Reuters news story that I read called it the "Merkle" Foundation, I had problems finding its Web site. Now, you would think that an organization as reputable as Reuters would get the facts correct. Maybe it has something to do with the pressure to publish quickly on the Web.
It is almost impossible to get everything you write 100 percent right. Most readers understand this and will excuse a minor mistake or two. Think of yourself as a car dealer. Every minor mistake you make is a small scratch on that new car that you're trying to sell. (Major mistakes would be faulty engines.)
Here are a number of things to do to avoid getting too many "scratches" on your content:
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