The Cobb County Courier is a small organization, with limited resources, and as such we don’t have the ability to hire full-time fact-checkers.
However, we take the fact-checking process seriously, and consider it part of the copy-editing process before an article is posted.
Here are the general outlines we follow:
- The first pass over an article is to make sure any numbers in the article are plausible. Then, if it is possible to check numbers against an original source document we do so.
- The second pass is for verifiable assertions. For instance, if an individual is quoted saying “I think the Board of Commissioners wastes money,” that is an opinion, not a verifiable assertion. However, if they state “The Board of Commissioners spent $5 million on personal items not related to the business of the commission”, that is a statement that is either true or false, and we would dig into it further before running with it.
- The third pass is for names of organizations, correct spellings of the names of individuals, and to make certain that quotes are matched with the correct individuals.
- Finally, a pass is made to see if the facts in the article give an accurate picture of the subject of the article in context. For instance, if an assertion is made that “county staff spent $5 million dollars on paper clips,” in the context of an article on government waste, we have an obligation to figure out whether the number is really out of step with other counties of comparable size, and whether those paper clips are being used for a valid and defensible purpose.
As vigorously as we try to catch errors of fact before they reach our readers, from time to time an alert reader points out a factual error. You can read about what happens then in our corrections policy.