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Allan Britnell, a Canadian freelance writer and fact-checker, suggests that magazines' superior fact-checking should be advertised and used as a marketing tool. "I would argue that substantively checking all editorial content should be the benchmark," he says, intimating that some sort of "certified," logo-bearing standard for fact-checking could in some way save magazine journalism.

That's all well and good, but here's what I think: The argument fails unless you actually define what constitutes a "substantive" fact-check, as opposed to what Britnell calls "double-checking the spelling of source names and spot-checking the odd factoid." Define your terms or go home, buddy. You're talking to fact-checkers here.

For my part, I do what I consider to be a pretty rigorous fact-check on every piece that comes across my desk, and it would be awesome if that work were recognized in some sort of visible way, but calling for standards without even trying to define those standards always bothers me.

Talk about an argument lacking substance.

Yours truly,
The Fact-Checking Dept.

11:30 am, March 13, 2009 :: art of editing

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