Fact-checkers often work in the research departments of magazines or for television news shows. They go over each story meticulously to confirm all the facts contained within it. This might mean confirming a subject’s age or what the subject is reported to have said.
Fact-checkers are the second line of defense to ensure that mistakes don’t happen. Should someone get angry and threaten to sue over the content of a news or feature story, the publication or program has multiple people who can back up the veracity of the information.
Fact-Checker Duties & Responsibilities
A fact checker's duties begin with good research skills and an instinct for knowing when a fact has actually been confirmed. These duties include:
- Confirming details: A fact-checker must be able to confirm details with a source without watering down, or altering, the story itself.
- Correcting copy: This can include spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
- Confirm historical information: The dates of events that happened decades ago are as important as those of current events.
- Confirm data: This might include the quoted results of studies and surveys.
- Confirm identities: The names, addresses, and identities of quoted sources must be confirmed, including ascertaining that they really said or implied information that's being attributed to them without alarming them, potentially making them retract their quotes.
In some cases with print media, a fact-checker might be responsible for directing typesetters as to fonts and any special text design requirements or needs.
Compensation for this job can depend a great deal on years of experience, as well as the size of the employer. A major metropolitan news outlet will generally pay more than a suburban publication based simply on circulation revenues. These figures are U.S. averages and might not apply to every location.
- Average annual salary: $61,890 ($29.27/hour)
- Average entry-level salary: $44,703 ($21.49/hour)
- Average senior-level salary: $76,121 ($36.59/hour)
Source: Salary Expert
"Entry-level" typically refers to employees with one to three years' experience, while senior-level fact-checkers generally have eight or more years' experience in the profession. Some fact-checkers are paid by the hour.
Education, Training, & Certification
Most fact-checkers who have minimal experience begin by taking entry-level jobs, but education is nonetheless important to landing one of these positions.
- Education: At a minimum, you should have an associate degree, and a bachelor's degree is preferred. Suggested majors include English, communications, or journalism. Only about 2 percent of all fact-checkers have only high school diplomas, according to Salary Expert. Approximately 68 percent have bachelor's degrees, and 30 percent have master's degrees or doctorates.
- Certifications: There are generally no certifications required to work in this field.
Fact-Checker Skills & Competencies
A fact-checker must rely on two skills—independent research and reporting skills—to ensure an article's accuracy, but other competencies can make people more suited to this profession as well.
- Interpersonal skills: A fact-checker must often talk to sources to confirm information. A journalist’s job is often about getting someone to say something they might not want to say, so a fact-checker needs to handle sources with kid gloves to avoid having them change their minds after the fact.
- Mathematics: Fact-checkers are responsible for ensuring that any quoted numbers or equations are correct.
- Computer skills: Mastery of the internet and search skills can be crucial to finding accurate and up-to-date information under the pressure of deadlines and a 24-hour news cycle.
- Attention to detail: Information cannot be skimmed over. A statement such as "Dogs like to bark" deserves a moment of scrutiny just as does a far more complex and less obvious assertion.
Print media is becoming increasingly obsolete in this age of electronics, but information and journalism are simply changing forms, not disappearing. Fact-checkers should be required on an ongoing basis regardless of technology.
Deadlines exist with all types of publications, and this can mean pressure to perform quickly without sacrificing accuracy.
This might be part-time or full-time employment, but deadlines must be met regardless, which can occasionally result in putting in additional hours. News doesn't stop happening on weekends, so this isn't always a Monday-to-Friday job.
How to Get the Job
CREATE A GREAT RESUME
LiveCareer.com provides a good example of a fact-checker resume.
NARROW YOUR JOB SEARCH
Some job portals have more in the way of fact-checker and writer resumes than others. Jobsgalore.com usually has fact-checker listings and you can narrow your search by zip code if you don't want to work remotely.
Comparing Similar Jobs
Some similar positions can overlap with the job of a fact-checker.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017