There’s some real irony in Newsweek’s handling of all of this. Ferguson was not truthful in his article. Instead of his editors calling him on it, and noting it for the public, they lent him their website to double down on his dishonesty. And then to defend the initial error, the magazine cited current trends. I’m not convinced this actually is the trend. I’d be shocked if Esquire, GQ, ESPN, Elle, Marie Claire etc. didn’t fact-check their features. It would be a really bad idea for us to adopt the book publishing world’s culture of passing the buck.
In Praise of Fact-Checkers - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
From my own experience on Newsweek’s Website: We didn’t have fact checkers, for reasons of timeliness as well as budgets. What we did have is a) an expectation from the writers that they would be honest and factual in their reporting and b) an expectation that the Website editors wouldn’t let outrageous bullshit through the system.
In the Ferguson story, Newsweek clearly fell down on both accounts. But I am certain this isn’t the norm, for them or for other media orgs.
This is a major, major problem.
If budget concerns at a purported journalistic source with some respect behind its name (whether in print or on the web) result in it not having fact checkers working for any end it publishes content on, it might as well cease to publish for all the good it will do.
You cannot rely solely on the honor of the people who write the material you publish. That is why copy editors exist; that is why researchers existed. Someone has to look over it with some manner of critical eye, from the basest feature or silliest TV news story to the most important, Pulitzer-winning print series.
If you can’t afford some manner of fact-checking, hang it up and call it a day.