Getting at the source of things

My American Copy Editors Society colleague Mark Allen offered everyone a New Year’s resolution Jan. 2 on the Copyediting.com blog: Don’t get fooled again.

Mark offers this advice to reporters: “If you don’t know the source, don’t run the story.”

I want to expand that advice for copy editors: If you can’t determine the source, then you need to exercise your editing skills. Get in touch with the reporter and explain why there’s a problem. Then either edit or cut the passage. Or do some fact checking and linking until what’s written is sourced and responsible.

As copy editors, you have a responsibility to make sure a hoax, rumor or humor masquerading as news doesn’t find its way into a story.

Educate yourself in finding the red flags in copy when it comes to sourcing. And learn how to track information down digitally to the source. And then insist that what clears your desk isn’t an offender.

I’ll end with a shameless plug. At the ACES national conference March 26-28 in Pittsburgh, we’re scheduling a track on fact checking. I’ll be doing a session on finding the red flags in copy. And if you can’t make it, I’ll be posting my slide show after the conference.

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