Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Nearly every post I write has some fact contained in it, and that means fact-checking. In the past, I’ve said things that I’d always thought were true, only to find out later that I was wrong. I hate when that happens. So, I check out any fact I mention, almost always linking to a source. The exception to those links are primarily when a fact is so ubiquitous that it seems unnecessary, or when it has something to do with my family or my personal history, in which case a link is impossible. However, with my personal history posts, I sometimes find a way around the lack of anything to link to, like the 2012 post I wrote about Robert Bork, where I used a footnote to cite the source.
There have been a few times when I’ve been extremely busy and started a post that required links to sources. But, since I didn’t have time to collect all those links, I’ve just killed the post I was working on rather than complete it and post it without sources or—even worse—fact-checking myself.
One of the reasons that this fact-checking has become a problem is something that I actually can control: Information death spirals. Say I check a particular fact and in the process find out a further fact I didn’t know about. I then research that. It, in turn, leads to another fact, and so on, until a very long time has passed.
If I stopped that, “hm, that’s interesting…” link-following, I could probably get a few more posts written and published. However, sometimes those tangents have led me on to interesting subjects that themselves became posts. So, that time-suck isn’t ALL bad.
I’ve often said that the credibility of news reports can collapse if they get too many things factually wrong, or even one big enough thing wrong. We bloggers start out with the presumption that we play fast and loose with truth and facts, so I make a point of checking out what I say. I obviously can’t control what other bloggers do, and I can’t raise the standard for fact-based blogging, but those aren’t my goals. Instead, I’m merely trying to make what I say as factual and credible as I can.
So, blog posts take me longer than maybe they “should”, but I think that’s okay. At least I can be confident that most of what I say here is verifiably true, and that’s important to me.
Still, it’s a good thing I’m not as obsessive about fixing spelling or grammatical mistakes, or even simple typos, because otherwise I’d probably end up publishing almost nothing. No, I’m not going to fact check that.