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The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking

“A column by Glenn Garvin on Dec. 20 stated that the National Science Foundation ‘funded a study on Jell-O wrestling at the South Pole.’ That is incorrect. The event took place during off-duty hours without NSF permission and did not involve taxpayer funds.” 

Corrections such as this one from the Miami Herald have become a familiar sight for readers, especially as news cycles demand faster and faster publication. While some factual errors can be humorous, they nonetheless erode the credibility of the writer and the organization. And the pressure for accuracy and accountability is increasing at the same time as in-house resources for fact-checking are dwindling. Anyone who needs or wants to learn how to verify names, numbers, quotations, and facts is largely on their own.

Enter The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking, an accessible, one-stop guide to the why, what, and how of contemporary fact-checking. Brooke Borel, an experienced fact-checker, draws on the expertise of more than 200 writers, editors, and fellow checkers representing the New Yorker, Popular Science, This American Life, Vogue, and many other outlets. She covers best practices for fact-checking in a variety of media—from magazine articles, both print and online, to books and documentaries—and from the perspective of both in-house and freelance checkers. She also offers advice on navigating relationships with writers, editors, and sources; considers the realities of fact-checking on a budget and checking one’s own work; and reflects on the place of fact-checking in today’s media landscape.

“If journalism is a cornerstone of democracy, then fact-checking is its building inspector,” Borel writes. The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking is the practical—and thoroughly vetted—guide that writers, editors, and publishers need to maintain their credibility and solidify their readers’ trust.

192 pages | 11 halftones, 2 line drawings | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2016

Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing

Library Science and Publishing: Publishing

Media Studies

Reference and Bibliography


“The volume of publishing is so overwhelming—and the quality often questionable—that readers easily give up on an author’s piece as soon as they hit a little bump and go find something else to read. Borel’s guide builds a strong argument for including fact-checking in the publishing process and then teaches you the full process.”


“An indispensable resource in the age of ‘fake news,’ this slim but informative title offers writers, researchers, and journalists best practices for fact-checking in a wide variety of media.”

Best Reference Titles of 2016 | Library Journal

“Many of the tips she offers here are useful not just to fact-checkers, but also to reporters and researchers, particularly the chapter on checking different kinds of facts. . . . She's especially good at explaining the different levels of attribution, which many journalists don't completely understand, and how scientific studies and statistics can be misunderstood and manipulated. She reiterates one piece of advice so often it almost
seems like a mantra: When in doubt, ask an expert.”

Chicago Reader

“Students, teachers, journalists, professional fact-checkers, bloggers, librarians and consumers of media in general all stand to gain valuable knowledge and insights from this book.”

Reference Reviews

“For writers, both professional and amateur, Borel’s Guide should be considered essential. . . . And lest it may be thought by some ‘I’m not a writer; such a book doesn’t really pertain to me,’ if you gain nothing more from reading it than an improved ability to rationally and systematically assess the veracity of what you read or hear reported via whatever medium though which you gather your news of the world, your time spent reading it will be most certainly well spent indeed.”

Well-Read Naturalist

“Few aspects of journalism are as complicated as fact checking.  Brooke Borel’s mantra is ‘Think like a fact checker.’ This useful book will help you navigate the shoals.”

Peter Canby, author of The Heart of the Sky: Travels Among the Maya and New Yorker fact-checking director

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Why We Fact-Check
Chapter Two: What We Fact-Check
Chapter Three: How We Fact-Check
Fact-Checking Magazine Articles
Fact-Checking Other Media
Navigating Relationships with Editors, Writers, and Producers
Fact-Checking on a Budget
Fact-Checking Your Own Writing
Chapter Four: Checking Different Types of Facts
Basic Facts
Physical Descriptions
Historical Quotes and Stories
Product Claims
Foreign Languages
Foreign Outlets
“Common Knowledge”
Headlines and Cover Lines
Facts from Anonymous or Sensitive Sources
Conflicting Facts
Gray Areas
Litigious Material
Plagiarism and Fabrication
Chapter Five: Sourcing
Interview Recordings and Transcripts
The Internet
Maps and Atlases
Press Releases
Academic Literature
Chapter Six: Record Keeping
Paper Backup
Electronic Backup
Chapter Seven: Test Your Skills

Appendix One: “Test Your Skills” Answer Key
Appendix Two: Suggested Reading and Listening

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