Fake News and Freelance Journalism: Tools to Save Your Career

Carol Tice | 32 Comments
Fake News and Freelance Journalism: Career-Saving Tips

We live in a world of dueling realities today, when it comes to media. If you’re trying to do freelance journalism, your job just got a whole lot harder. Even harder than it is for staff writers at newspapers.

Once, the Fourth Estate — the ‘mainstream media’ — was a deeply trusted organ considered vital to our democracy. Now, after four years of being told by the leader of the free world that the media is lying to the American public, that trust is at an all-time low.

As I write this, we stand in the unprecedented situation of both major U.S. presidential candidates claiming they won the election. Social-media outlets are tagging the 45th president’s posts with warnings that they contain falsehoods.

NOT going to talk politics in this post. Just saying, this is the world writers live in now.

What I want you to think about is this:

In a world of ‘FAKE NEWS’ and massive distrust, how can you get an editor to believe in and publish your article?

After all, editors know staff writers better, and trust them more vs. the writers chasing freelance journalism assignments. How will you win them over?

Today, the reputation of every news organization is on the line, with every story. Fears of being accused of printing falsehoods are haunting every editorial desk.

If you’re a freelance journalist pitching a story to a magazine, that affects your odds of finding an editor willing to take a chance on you.

The challenges for newbies

If you’re a self-taught blogger who’s hoping to get into writing for magazines, you’ll need to get up to speed on how freelance journalism is different from opinion writing.

To help you, I’ve put together a guide to the basics you’ll need to succeed as a freelance journalist, as we head into 2021.

Because if you don’t want to end up trolled, shamed, banned, or the subject of a lawsuit, getting the story right has never been more important.

It can feel scary out there — but I’ve been a reporter for 20+ years, and have never gotten into trouble yet. (I’ve come close, though. Details below.)

Below is my guide to what’s happened to the news since 2016, and a primer on the fundamentals of freelance journalism you need to know to stay out of trouble and get your stories out there, as a freelance journalist today.

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Media literacy 101

After this election season, here’s hoping media literacy becomes a mandatory high-school course. Because it’s clear many people are confused about whether what something they see online is made up or not.

Misleading and flat-out false information is flying around our social media channels fast as you can click the ‘share’ button — over half of Americans report they’ve shared lies. And most say they only figured out they spread falsehoods after they shared them.

If you want to pursue freelance journalism and writing for a living, begin by not adding to the problem of misinformation. This rubric should help.

The information is most likely legit if it’s from a media outlet that:

  • Has been in operation 50-100 years or more
  • Is an emerging media outlet whose mission and backers you have checked into (thinking of ProPublica or Axios here)
  • Winner of many journalism awards, especially Pulitzers
  • Stories have expert quotes, research sources are cited
  • Byline you recognize as someone with a reputation for fairness and accuracy
  • There is a gatekeeper, an editor or fact-checker that reviews work prior to publication

The information should be viewed with more suspicion if it:

  • Sources are anonymous or unidentified
  • It’s being shared around social media, and you can’t tell who the original author is
  • Is from an unfamiliar source whose reputation or point of view you don’t know
  • Is an opinion that lacks attribution of facts
  • Alleges things are happening without evidence
  • States things that contradict the realities you observe

We all have an obligation to be careful about what we share, and think about whether it’s likely untrue before spreading it around.

In freelance journalism, writers should be in the vanguard of people who think twice before sharing in social media! Our democracy will be better off if we all make the effort, and freelance journalism will be easier to accomplish, too.

You can also use the criteria above to evaluate the media outlets you choose to pitch. (More below on the problem of discovering a platform isn’t what you thought.)

Why there is no ‘fake news’

It’s a phrase you’ve heard a lot, in recent years. It’s also what’s called an oxymoron, or a phrase that contradicts itself. There is no such thing as ‘fake news.’ Fake means the opposite of news.

News is real, actual, emerging facts. Real things that are happening in the real world. That can’t be fake. If it’s fake, it’s misinformation or flat-out lies.

In reality, all actual news outlets inhabit the same world: One where they live in terror of misstating something, getting sued, and going out of business.

To sum up, here’s the big thing you need to know:

Major media outlets are not playing fast and loose with the facts. There’s too much at stake for them, especially when it comes to freelance journalism.

They’re also making sure they have permission, where needed, to air videos and other media they want to show you.

Because mistakes on facts and permissions pose an existential threat to the continued existence of that news organization. They’re a life-and-death matter, in journalism.

Let’s look at a couple recent examples, to see how severe the backlash is for being wrong in news.

Permission and the death of Gawker

Remember Gawker? It was a freewheeling celebrity gossip site. This popular site was founded in 2003, the Internet’s early days, and was frequently supported by freelance journalism.

It thrived, and grew, and spawned a whole media empire. Then one day, Gawker ran a sex tape featuring the wrestler known as Hulk Hogan and a partner, without their permission.

Gawker had been sued before and lost, but had the resources to keep going. This one got Gawker sued off the face of the Earth. Hogan won a $140 million judgment against Gawker’s owners.

Lacking $140 million, Gawker media declared bankruptcy. Its assets were sold for $130 million to another online company, Univision. Other Gawker-owned sites, including Lifehacker and Gizmodo, live on.

But Gawker was shut down forever in August 2016, its brand considered ‘too toxic’ to be viable, by the new owners.

It’s important to note that this tape was not fake or altered. It was real. But the site was extinguished because it lacked permission to air the tape.

Imagine the problems when stories get facts wrong. OK, don’t imagine it — just read on.

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The case of the missing laptop

When publications get it wrong, or discover a reporter may have made something up, it’s a massive reputation hit, at the least. At worst, they can get sued and go bust.

It appears we have a case like this unfolding right now — the case of the tabloid New York Post and its stories about a purported Hunter Biden laptop.

Information on this laptop allegedly reveals the younger Biden introduced his father to a Ukrainian businessman at a corrupt company, implying that the President-Elect was involved in something illegal.

There are many fascinating aspects to this story, which will no doubt be studied at journalism schools for years to come. The ones to pay attention to as a freelance journalist are these:

  • The laptop which was supposed to provide proof of these allegations mysteriously went missing.
  • The repairman who supposedly copied the Biden laptop’s emails to a hard drive for someone he claimed was Hunter Biden later contradicted his story.
  • It was revealed that the story began with a lead from alt-right Breitbart News exec and former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
  • A former Fox News pundit-show producer co-wrote some of the pieces.
  • The Wall Street Journal was offered the story first, the New York Times later reported, and passed after it became clear the story had sourcing problems.
  • No mainstream news media outlet picked up and ran any articles similar to the Post story or based on its reporting. Instead, many stories ran that investigated and debunked its sourcing.

That a story like this made it into the Post and has now been widely discredited makes it harder for every freelance writer trying to pitch a big, investigative story.

Be ready to show your work and document everything you do, as you gather facts.

You may have read that conspiracy theorists think this is a tale of ‘censorship,’ of the mainstream media suppressing an important story because they don’t like where it leads. But it isn’t.

It’s a story of most of the media performing its sacred Fourth Estate duty as a gatekeeper, and not publishing a story that was dubiously sourced. A story that might lead them to get sued, because it turns out to be impossible to verify. And exposes them to a lawsuit.

Which is where the Post stands now. The Bidens seem to have a pretty open-and-shut libel case against the newspaper, barring the emergence of new evidence that would make the story veriable and true.

It only remains to be seen whether the Biden family decides to spend time and energy on lawyers and putting the paper out of business, or whether to focus on running the country. My money’s on the latter.

But one thing’s for sure: the editor who greenlit these stories put that paper at risk.

You don’t ever want to be in this situation, with a story you wrote. Check your facts and keep your documentation.

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My own near-death experience

I was a staff reporter at two publications, for a total of 12 years. I did not wake up every morning and think:

“Hey, let’s write whatever I feel today, without confirming sources to verify my facts. Who cares! I have an agenda I want to get across, and if I have to fudge facts a bit, I will.”

Nope.

Like every reporter ever, I lived in terror of being accused of having a hidden agenda, getting it wrong, getting fired, and being the person whose error put my paper out of business.

If you’re wondering why the topic of accuracy and fairness in reporting is one I’m passionate about, it’s because I almost became the focus of a lawsuit. It happened when I was a staffer at the business journal in Seattle.

I was working on a story that had a long reporting timeframe. Several months.

Early on in the reporting, I promised an executive at the company who was the subject of what was shaping up to be an unflattering article that I would fact-check with them once I had finished all my interviews. I pledged to make sure they had a chance to respond to everything I heard from other sources I talked to after my core interview with them.

Then, time went by. And I forgot about this promise.

Didn’t double-check through my notes before filing. Didn’t see the note.

When they called the paper in a rage, I saw my professional life flash before my eyes.

They had a basis for a lawsuit. They had received a promise, and did not receive their promised chance to have all their counter-arguments in the story. As a result, needed perspective and balance were missing from the story.

Which is nearly as good as flat-out telling a lie.

The only reason that paper is still around and I still have a journalism career is that the execs at this company had a close relationship with the publisher. And he was able to talk them off the ledge about suing.

He assured them they’d be covered again and we’d make sure the other side of their story appeared in the publication as well.

It was a close call I never forgot. And the risk of a career-ender should never be far from your mind, any time you are writing editorial, for any publication, anywhere.

It doesn’t have to be a big-time, acclaimed news organization. It could be a small city magazine, a trade publication for dentists, anything anywhere.

Check your facts, get the other side, and make sure you have permission or the documentation you need to support everything you write.

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Detecting the fake news media

As we’ve seen, there are no ‘fake news’ stories. But there are fake news outlets that in fact have a strong, often fringe point of view they try to dress up with a journalistic feel.

Places that are less about balanced reporting and speaking truth to power, and more fulfilling a leader’s dream of having their own Pravda-like, party-line echo chamber.

And in some cases, they’re actively looking to dupe freelance journalists into writing for them.

A few prominent examples of rising faux news organizations:

Not saying you shouldn’t write for these places if you want, and if you agree with their point of view. Just understand that some vetting is required these days, when you encounter a ‘news’ organization you don’t know, to make sure what you’d write for them would be classified as journalism.

One final example: Just a couple of months ago, it came to light that some veteran journalists were suckered into writing well-paid articles for PeaceData. This innocuous-sounding ‘news’ source turned out to be a Russian disinformation scheme.

After signing on, freelance journalists were asked to rewrite their articles to fit a Russian propaganda agenda.

Thing to know: There’s no law requiring organizations with the word ‘news’ or other newspaper-sounding phrases in their name to be actual news organizations. Could be anything.

How’d I find all this out about the bogus ‘news’ sites, by the way?

Research. You should do it, too.

Always research prospects and find out who they are before you pitch.

Feel free to pop ‘What is [site name] or ‘Who is Behind [site name]‘ or similar phrases into your search engine of choice.

It’s a sure bet that if a publication or website is not what they seem, you’ll find stories about it.

A toolkit for making news

If you’ve been writing whatever you feel on your own blog, without documenting if what you’ve said is actually true… hopefully, you’ve just learned that freelance journalism operates differently.

In general, your opinion will not be part of the stories you write, as a freelance journalist. Instead, you’ll focus on obtaining facts from knowledgeable, credible experts. People who aren’t you.

To nail down a reported story, you’ll need that who-what-when-where-why basic info. You will be a fact-seeking missile. When did it happen, why, to whom, how many, where, what did it feel, smell, taste like.

You’ll get that info from experts in your topic to talk to you (or you’ll read their book), and you will cite their ideas. Not sure who an expert is? Learn about reliable places to find experts to quote.

Along with the experts, you will often get the perspectives of the ‘people on the street’ who are affected by this development. The person who had to say goodbye to grandma on the phone because COVID. For instance.

You will also research facts — medical studies, polls, and the like. Again, from reputable sources, such as leading organizations, published authors, and government agencies.

Tips that keep new reporters out of trouble

Journalists abide by a set of rules, in bringing you the news. There’s a lot to know, but a few quick tips:

  • More than one source confirms each fact. This makes sure that you’re not falling for some crackpot’s B.S. line.
  • Get multiple points of view in the story. You want balanced reporting that sees all sides of an issue.
  • Friends and family cannot be sources. Unless your editor OK’s it. But in general, they pose a conflict of interest for you, as you like them and can’t be impartial about what they say.
  • Don’t ever pay sources. This taints the information they give you.
  • Don’t accept pay for links in your story. There is widespread effort by businesses who want mentions in major online publications to simply pay journalists for a link, these days. Great way to get banned from a site and ruin your reputation. Just say no.
  • Don’t show your article draft to sources prior to publication. That’s a journalism no-no.
  • Don’t re-quote others’ reporting. That’s lazy journalism. Go find the original research and quote it directly. Re-interview that expert and get your own quote.
  • Consider the source. Does the source you’re talking to have a strong point of view or agenda? That will need to be disclosed, and likely a different viewpoint also included.
  • Ask for documentation. How does your source know what they know? Ask to see source materials.
  • Worried about something? Ask your editor, anytime a situation gives you even a vague ‘icky’ feeling.
  • Keep your word. If you promised a source something, you’ll have to deliver. Mostly, don’t make promises.

In general, don’t lie or make stuff up. Should be obvious, but it’s happened. And when it does, it’s a career-ender.

Resources to know

Now that you know more about the challenges you face as a reporter today in convincing editors and the public your article contains truths, you may be wondering how to know what’s real.

There are nonpartisan, bipartisan, and journalist-led websites that can help. Here are a few:

  • Politifact provides a fact-checking truth meter for political tropes circulating in social media. The nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies runs this one, along with PunditFact.
  • Factcheck.org is brought to you by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
  • Newsguard uses a browser app to rate the accuracy of news sites you visit. Run by journalists.
  • Snopes is a longtime, wide-ranging B.S.-meter that you’re probably familiar with.
  • Here’s a training handbook from UNESCO for teaching journalists to detect falsehoods.

It’s worth a moment to run whatever rumor you’re hearing through one or more of these fact-checkers, or to check out the accuracy rating of the news site you’ve chosen, before you swallow whole whatever they’re putting out.

Freelance journalism needs to thrive

We’ve never needed the free press, and people who are willing to dig and uncover wrongdoing and speak truth to power more than we do right now. And it can’t all be done by writers on staff.

Freelance journalism is essential to bringing important stories to light. And many freelance writers I know want to do investigative work and expose wrongdoing. Get your truth meter calibrated, and then go for it!

I hope these resources and background on navigating the current news climate helps you to get the stories you report out to a wide audience.

What recent challenges have you encountered, as a freelance journalist? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Grow Your Writing Income. FreelanceWritersDen.com

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32 comments on “Fake News and Freelance Journalism: Tools to Save Your Career

    • Angie Mansfield on

      Not sure what you mean, Amir – there’s a new post every Sunday and Wednesday. Click “Blog” at the top of the page to see all posts.

      Reply
  1. Morris Watson on

    I would really like to work in the journalism field. Maybe something like a news broadcasting or magazine editorwriter. What are some other careers in journalism, what kind of degree would I need, and what are some good colleges?

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Morris, I got in the door without a degree, but I think in the years since it’s become tougher to do so. The top 2 schools are Columbia and Medill, but I’m sure you can easily Google a larger list of J-schools. In news broadcasting, look for your local cable-access station – you can often propose a show or volunteer on crew there and learn the ropes. I got my start in broadcasting in radio at KPFK Los Angeles, volunteering with a collective that produced a couple of shows. There are also newspaper internships, usually through the J-Schools.

      Hope that helps and good luck! The big thing to know is there are fewer full-time ‘careers’ in journalism these days, as daily papers are under threat and many have closed. Learning freelance marketing will probably be a good skill, because most of us aren’t staffers these days.

      Reply
  2. Linda+Hamilton on

    My concern is that one news media in 2016 reported that it had fabricated stories about then-candidate Trump to sway people against him. The editors admitted to allowing writers to create falsified stories to discredit the man. It was made public after the 2016 election, but it was soon swept under the rug by mainstream media. Although it was and still is considered a very credible news source, I’ve read multiple stories that counter what I’ve seen in live videos. How can I trust such a news sources that meet your suggested requirements, but have admitted they falsified news on purpose? Since I saw that information I’ve swayed away from that news source and have since found them to write questionable stories even though many think they are still a credible source?

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      I don’t know what you could be referring to, and surely don’t remember anything like this from a mainstream media source. Don’t remember any fabricated stories about Trump coming to light… but there sure have been many going the other direction, as with the mysterious missing laptop of Hunter Biden that supposedly proves a huge conspiracy.

      Reply
      • Linda A Hamilton on

        I found an article that MIGHT have been what I read in 2016 but it was from the New York Post, which you’ve mentioned isn’t reliable. Several other articles appeared but again, they were from sources considered unreliable. However, in my experience over the past four years I have read multiple posts on notable and credible media sources that have twisted what is really said to fit an agenda that is totally biased against Trump that I knew were twisted because I heard the original video. That’s were I struggle with some news sources. Not getting political, just commenting. I appreciate your post because it has made me look more discreetly at news media posts. But I find that it’s getting harder to trust sources that are considered credible because I find them twisting what is said to fit their own agenda. Just saying. Thanks for bringing this information to light.

        Reply
        • Carol Tice on

          Seems like a pretty vague and broad-spectrum charge there, can’t remember any specifics. I don’t really want to belabor this, but to return to my main point in the story. If that were REALLY true, that they misreported the story and then it was slander or libel against Trump, those media would have been sued by Trump (he loves to sue, we can agree on that, yes?) and gone out of business.

          Reply
          • Linda A. Hamilton on

            I agree with you Carol and I see your point. The New York Post reported it and cited a story by another media network. Based on information you provided within the post above I see your points. We don’t need to go further. What your post and my research did was make me more aware of how important valid research is and from reliable sources. We’re good. Information noted. Thank you again.

    • Carol Tice on

      My pleasure! I know many bloggers interested in making the leap to write for magazines, and this post I’m hoping provides help — and an understanding of the particular difficulties of trying to write nonfiction after 4 years of a prominent person demonizing the mainstream media.

      Reply
  3. Kaitlin Morrison on

    Yesterday, I read an article with anecdotes from healthcare professionals about how some Covid-19 patients are using their last moments to argue with their nurse or doctor that they don’t really have Covid because it doesn’t exist and they don’t believe in it.

    The idea that a person could actually, literally die of a disease and be that much in denial about it says a lot about human nature. We need journalism BECAUSE of this ugly side of human nature and our own tendencies to see what confirms our biases instead of what’s actually true.

    Thank you so much for this article. I find it concerning that so many people think they can define truth as whatever they want to believe. In time, though, I think we can all remind others why a grounding in reality matters.

    Reply
    • Janice on

      Some of these patients are delusional because of the disease. I think it’s important to present information within a fair context also. These patients might know what they are saying, but they also might not know what they are saying.

      Reply
  4. Anne Kruse on

    Carol, this article is the road coming up to meet our feet during this crazy time. Pure wisdom and solid! I’m going to share it with my friends, including those who are high school teachers who can share it with students.

    Apparently, you wrote exactly what I needed to consume today. 🙂

    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Glad I could help! When I thought on this topic, I sort of couldn’t believe I went 4 years of the ‘fake news’ era without SAYING something to help writers navigate this weird time.

      Reply
  5. Bob Dobbs on

    Good read! I like some of these points. However, Pulitzer Prizes are not a good sign of legit news. Look at the 1619 project. Look at how far Left the NY Times is and I’m not just talking about the Opinions section. I’m APOLITICAL and I have problems with the recipient of the most Pulitzer prizes in journalism.

    I just don’t think that’s a good measuring stick since most of the winners have slight or radical left-leanings. That makes them completely unobjective and unreliable. Even the APs headlines are starting to be more left-leaning these days. MediaBiasFact check even finds PolitiFact left-leaning. Anyone who paid attention to the Presidential Election can clearly see that 90% of the “fair-and-objective” news sources were all but fair and objective. Maybe that’s why CNN et al is for sale! I’m not trying to hate, but all of this media intake could be summed up and solved in two words: critical thinking. I really wish they taught that in schools.

    I think you’d get a better understanding of the truth if you read a self-proclaimed biased person on one side, and then you read his/her opposition. Read Ben Shapiro and then Rachael Maddow on the same topic. You’d see the key issues, the clear bias, and then complete story. That’s how court-room judges do it. When all the cards are laid out, you’d be able to make a decision for yourself. But who has time for that? Sites like AllSides help with this.

    As writers, maybe we should never declare our political bias and just chase down a good story–and back it with plenty of solid proof. Politics ruin everything.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Bob — wow, lots to unpack there, especially for someone who proclaims themself ‘apolotical.’ It’s sad to hear that even the Pulitzers don’t make you feel trust for an organizations’ fact-reporting commitment.

      The Op-eds in a paper are just that… opinion. Which isn’t the subject of this post. It’s about news reporting, and media literacy to understand what is news and what isn’t. The editorial board of the Times and the reporters at the Times are not the same people.

      I’m unclear why doing a project around a major anniversary of the first year slavery came to America makes a paper ‘far left.’ I’m unaware of anything nonfactual in that widely heralded and cited set of stories. Creating resources around the origins of slavery in the US filled a gap our school history books seemed to leave out, and it won a Knight award for public-service journalism. Because it’s a public service to bring forgotten history to light. What am I missing there? Do you believe we didn’t have slavery?

      I’d never heard of ‘Mediabiasfactcheck,’ so I looked it up. Columbia Journalism Review calls it a single curmedgeon’s ‘amateur attempt’ to rank sites for accuracy. Others have come to a similar conclusion about that site. Doesn’t sound like something to trust! As opposed to sites where large groups of trained journalists collaborate to assess bias. Sounds more like a site someone put up to make ad revenue on. It’s not considered a legitimate source of bias detection.

      Also looked at your ‘CNN is for sale’ claim. It appears they’re selling the building known as ‘CNN Center.’ The CNN news organization is not for sale and will continue operating, just at another building they have in the area. See how careful fact-checking can often reveal a bit different story?

      I see that Fox is reporting a ‘rumor’ that AT&T needs to sell CNN to pay its own debt load. Not a commentary on CNN’s fortunes there, but AT&Ts. And not a story. A RUMOR.

      When you start talking about Rachel Maddow… she’s not a reporter. She’s a commentator. They are people with points of view, being paid to express them. It seems like the big problem America confronts is that they’re confused about who’s a reporter and who’s a pundit.

      Hadn’t heard of Allsides, either, which I gather claims to present a broad spectrum of political opinion. Its use of the phrase ‘fake news’ in its tagline tells me its actual point of view. Think I’ll stick to the places that know there’s no such thing, as I explained in the post.

      Not everyone who paid attention to the election thinks the mainstream news wasn’t balanced reporting. This is actually why I wrote this post — you live in a world where you think 90% of everyone agrees the media is biased. I live in a world where everyone I know believes the mainstream media reports facts, at the risk of their existence (even my Trump-voting parents). If they were not fairly reporting, they’d be gone. As someone who spent 12 years AS a staff journalist, possibly my reaction to what I’ve seen and who I trust to not lie to me are different than yours. Everyone needs to get out of their own bubble and understand that others don’t think as they do.

      Loss of trust in the 4th estate is a major danger to our democracy, and we all need to become more media literate and support particularly local newspapers — without them, there’s nobody to bust local politicans’ wrongdoings.

      I agree that critical thinking is a skill more Americans need to develop.

      Thanks for being a reader —

      Reply
      • Linda+Hamilton on

        Thanks for this post Carol. As a writer I want to report the truth and facts, not rumors and hearsay. I post on Facebook a lot for people I know who don’t read the media and get confused about what’s happening in politics and the world.

        In 99% of my posts I researched to ensure they were from reliable sources, did fact checks, and they wrote something that might clarified issues or merely shared a post. I gained an audience and a following who knew I sought the facts. The few times Facebook flagged me I was incredulous since what was written was either a true experience I had or a friend had, so it was true and factual not hearsay.

        I agree as freelancers we must make sure our information is accurate and reliable. You are absolutely correct.

        Thanks for posting so many reliable resources. I’m saving them to refer to when I factcheck, check news sources and write pieces that I want to publish, or even share on social media.

        Appreciate your work and efforts on this. It’s valuable, especially in these times.

        Reply
  6. Vera Cooley on

    Great article, Carol.
    I recently finished reading “Rage”, Bob Woodward’s latest book reporting on President Trump. I recommend it to anyone writing non-fiction books or articles.
    What I found most interesting was how Woodward conducts, organizes, and saves his interviews and research. All of his interviews with Trump and others were recorded with their knowledge.
    What was helpful to me as a reader was that Woodward included in his appendix, references to secondary research. In online articles, we can do that with links.
    Of course, Woodward did not get that book finished in eight months all by himself. He had research and editing help and he was very gracious in recognizing and thanking them all.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Good example of the careful work that goes into creating NEWS, Vera. Hopefully, we can cultivate a greater appreciation of that in the wider public — it would prevent so much of what’s happened online in 2016 AND 2020, where disinformation was passed off as fact.

      Reply
  7. Empish on

    Excellent piece and I am still reading! But wanted to comment anyway. I grew up reading multiple newspapers and magazines and I truly believe that reading more than one source is a good thing. When I went to j-school we were taught to have multiple sources in our stories or they wouldn’t get published. It is amazing to me that now we are in this place that people only get their news from one source-social media. I am rarely on it and when I am I am not looking for news. Thanks for the time, energy and attention to details to you spent on this. I will bookmark this for future reference.

    Reply
  8. Ranee Boyd Tomlin on

    I’ve been reading your posts for a long time, Carol. And I’ve been a devotee of the Fourth Estate for many decades. Of all the great pieces you’ve written, this is my absolute favorite. The insights, the advice, and the resources are stellar—and crucially important. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Ranee — wow, flattered! After about 1300 posts, that’s saying a lot. I’m hoping every American is a fan of having a Fourth Estate, someone to hold the powerful accountable… because it’s essential to our democracy.

      Reply
  9. Georgie Smith on

    This was fantastic piece Carol. Frankly, it needs to be shared much further than just to our freelance writing network.
    I am of the opinion that much of the (non-journalism) world needs this refresher in what news actually is!
    Sharing!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      Thanks for sharing this — you do wish media literacy was a required course for all voters, hm? It’s so worrisome that so many now view a meme on Facebook as their main source of news, with no idea where that thing came from. And it affects all of us, as freelance reporters.

      But a good story with well-vetted facts is still always welcome. I was FASCINATED by what happened with the story WSJ passed on. They must feel so gratified now that they stuck to their guns on it and said no — after seeing every other reputable media outlet refuse to touch it, too.

      Reply
  10. Peggy Diaco on

    Thank you so much, Carol! This was an extremely helpful article for me. Even if I’m not writing an article, I’m always checking the accuracy of information (mostly to win arguments with family).
    Definitely keeping this one on file.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      When I do writing critiques now, I am just ON ALERT for any, tiny, unattributed statement. Who said that? Where does this come from?

      This isn’t you writing your blog and saying what-ev. This is for all the marbles, the paper’s life is on the line, with every statement. Be right and have your facts straight! We have a long way to go to rebuild public trust in the 4th Estate, so let’s all work on it.

      Reply
      • Cevia Yellin on

        SUCH a helpful article for new writers, Carol. As a former teacher, I’m hyper-aware of this gap in media literacy. Understanding the audience, purpose, and “rules” for writing different freelance pieces is vital – for writers and readers – as well as the fact that no matter the kind of writing or the publisher, all reported information must hold up to the standard of journalistic integrity you described.

        Reply
    • Carol Tice on

      If everyone in America had that instinct, to ask ‘where did this come from, and what’s the agenda of the people behind it?’ I think the country would be a different place, right now.

      Reply

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