About fact-checked writing

When it comes down to writing articles, everything depends on reliable sources – if you don’t have access to them, you can only state opinions and guesses that could be true, but a high uncertainty reduces the value of the work substantially.

Right now at the time of writing this article, I’m sitting in a train on a long-distance trip with no access to internet and, as my laptop’s not charged, only equipped with pen and paper. While the second peril does only effect efficacy, the missing internet connection is crucial for my limited possibilities.

The expenses of fact-checking

In more than 90 % of the sentences in my other posts, I check my “facts” based on quick searches on the internet – which, in sum, takes a lot of time. While I verify my “facts” in this process (or even better, falsify them), it’s hard for me to build a common theme in a post as new information might change or even invert the image and direction of the original idea. While journalists and investigative bloggers have to deal with this peril per definition, they hopefully can make a living out of it. Thus, less professional writers are left alone with reading and learning all along without getting paid off – which at the end prevents them from publishing if they can’t rely on another source of income, or, in other words, don’t have time for it.

What’s the consequence of a necessary high effort for writing? I realized that for me, posts about the objects in locations are the easiest to write as the pictures I’ve taken of them hopefully speak for themselves and I don’t have to investigate that much further. While I acknowledge the skill of taking good photos (it’s an art), I guess that once you reached at least the semi-professional level, many stories write themselves, while journalists and researchers, as much as they learned over decades, still have to double-check each statement in terms of validity. And if they don’t, their work can be refused by their colleagues or readers due to lack of professional fact-checking.

While not intentionally, I often take the path of least resistance, and therefore rely on pictures on a large scale, the consequence being that I’ve only written two articles for the Thoughts and random facts series so far (apart from the summary of my experiences in Korea) which is dominated by statements found on the internet. This reflects clearly the challenge of writing a fact-based story and maybe also a lack of general experience and wisdom so far.

But once a problem is identified, you can work on solutions. And as there are millions or even billions of writers, there’s a high chance that there exist several techniques to lower the effort of writing while ensuring quality. Regarding the mentioned learning aspect, there shouldn’t be only videos and articles about how to write efficiently, but you should also be able to exchange with peers. Recently I discovered meetup.com, a platform where you can search for local groups about nearly any activity and interest. To address the problem of writing, e. g. a local WordPress group might be a good contact point. However: this takes time again.

And nonetheless, even if you manage to lower the necessary effort for writing, it still might be high – which might arises from the intended quality. In my case, I know about the missing common themes in many of my posts and thus don’t reach the intended quality. However, at the same time I know I can only improve by practising. In the past, I had a perfectionist way of working –  but new challenges in recent years made it impossible to spend hours, days, weeks and months and projects that have to be delivered in close deadlines. While you can debate about pros and cons of tight schedules, one thing is certain: the world keeps spinning with or without you, and therefore you have to adapt to the challenges you face. In short: often, there’s no time for a perfectionist aspiration.

I began to accept that I’m not able to deliver a perfect product in any sense, but rather that my work that I expose to the public documents my current skill level, with the formula “max. output in given time”. Improvements in this measure can lead to higher quality and/ or more articles given the same period. As checked facts are a quality measure, I can say: the expenses for fact-checking are less published articles. While this sounds trivial and obvious, this results in problems I mentioned above, like preventing those from publishing with less resources for writing or, if you insist on writing, lower quality of articles. With this in mind, you can think about its influence on nowadays issues and ideas, e. g. the spread of misinformation or the concentration of media ownership.


Featured Image – By U.S. Air Force, via Wright-Patterson Air Force Base