Friday, January 18, 2013
"Just the facts, ma'am."*
I got the position as a fact-checker. And I completed my first assignment yesterday.
(I should explain that it's a freelance position, and thus will provide intermittent income, so if any of you were praying for me to get a full-time gig someplace, you needn't stop sending good thoughts skyward.)
The work I'm doing is for a national magazine. I won't give the name yet. I don't know how they'd feel about that, so I have no intention of queering the deal immediately just to satisfy my ego and your curiosity. I'll tell you that it was launched in the early 1980's and currently has a monthly circulation above 500,000. If you're willing to do a little fact-checking research of your own, you might be able to guess it.
(Don't make any guesses in the comments, OK? If you do, I will neither confirm or deny. I will ignore.)
So, fact-checking is an interesting job. The basic deal is this: I receive an article due for publication in the coming months. I read it. I mark up the piece, deciding which things will need to be checked for accuracy (quotes, for example). Then I either verify the marked up sections via research (internet, library) or by contacting a person mentioned in the article and/or given as a source by the author. I may also search out other sources for verification, if the original sources can't be reached by deadline.
The piece I was fact-checking ran about 2,300 words. I put in roughly ten hours checking it. I had to contact nine different sources, via telephone, and take notes on the conversations we had. I also had to do some research on the internet, to make sure a few figures given by the writer were accurate. I also proofread the piece for spelling errors and other slips of the typing fingers. It is fairly taxing work mentally, but a good challenge. It combines aspects of reporting and editing, so it's good training for a writer.
It is also educational. For instance, I learned the following during the course of the fact-checking I did:
*Honeybees use headbutting as a means of communication.
*Football fields are 53 1/3 yards wide.
*60 milligrams = approximately 2/1000 of an ounce.
*Termites are capable of building nests (mounds) reaching a height of 40 feet.
It is a haphazard sort of an education. However, if I find myself on Jeopardy someday, and one of the categories is "Minutiae Concerning Athletic Fields And Insects", I'll probably ace it.
Needless to say, I'm grateful for the work. I'd give a big shout-out to the person who helped me get it, but he or she would rather remain anonymous. Considering that it's me that he or she would be associated with, that's understandable. Also, if my new employers found out how often I fabricate things here, they might become somewhat skeptical concerning my qualifications, so I'd better keep it on the down low.**
Soon, with more better stuff.
*I realize the reference is too outdated for some and too American for others. Tough. I'm American and outdated.
** No, not that down low.