Reminders on Verifying Information

Every time I teach interviewing I tell students one of the questions that should always be on the tip of their tongue is, “how do you know that.”

I  promised some takeaways from the new Verification Handbook (see previous blog post) so let me start on what the authors say about verification, in general.

In his chapter of the fundamentals of verifying information, Steve Buttry, from Digital Media First, notes that the recipe for verification has three ingredients. First, he writes, is “a person’s resourcefulness, persistence, skepticism and skill,” stirred in with “[s]ources’ knowledge, reliability and honesty, and the number, variety and reliability of sources you can find and persuade to talk. ” Add to that — documentation. And there’s your recipe. And it turns out differently every time, depending on how those elements mix together.

Buttry reminds us that sources can be wrong.  Official reports often turn out to contain errors.  Here is the most important part of what he said, I thought:

“They may be lying maliciously or innocently passing along misinformation. They may have faulty memories or lack context or understanding. They may be in harm’s way and unable to provide everything they know, or unable to see the full picture of events as they unfold. Our job is not to parrot sources and the material they provide, but to challenge them, triangulate what they provide with other credible sources and verify what is true…

Very important tips to remember.  More specific tips from the book still to come.


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