From The Newsroom: The Daily’s corrections and fact-checking process, explained


Nick Francis/Daily Senior Staffer

Fall Quarter Sports Editor John Riker types on a computer inside of The Daily’s newsroom. In this From the Newsroom, we dive into our fact-checking and corrections processes.

Nicole Markus and Joanna Hou

In this series, Daily staff members hope to provide more transparency about how we operate. If you would like to submit a question to be answered here, please send an email to [email protected].

At The Daily, we do our best to report as quickly and accurately as possible. But sometimes, we make mistakes. 

If you notice a factual error in one of our print stories, podcasts or videos, you can email the reporter (linked at the bottom of the story), the story’s desk editor or our copy editors ([email protected]) to ask for a correction. 

Once we hear of the potential error, we notify the rest of our editing chain, investigate the error and write up a correction (if one is needed) that looks something like this:

A previous version of this article misspelled Markus’ name. The Daily regrets the error.

Then, we correct the error where it occurred in the story online. If the story has already run in print, we print a correction in our newspaper the next day of publication. We call our corrections “setrecs,” which is short for “set the record straight.” 

To ensure our correction does not include any factual errors, the correction goes up through our editing chain. First, the desk editor reviews the correction; then, a managing editor reads over it; next, our copy desk fact-checks again; and finally, our editor in chief approves the correction for publication. 

Sometimes, a clarification is necessary instead of, or in addition to, a correction. Clarifications happen when a reader alerts us that a published story is missing an important piece of information, but there is no factual error present. Clarifications undergo the same editing process as corrections.  

After correcting the error, copy editors assign the reporter who wrote the story a two-hour copy editing shift where the reporter works with a copy editor so they can refresh themselves on how our fact-checking process works.

Reporters and editors work with the copy desk to ensure all information in the story is correct. The copy desk is responsible for verifying spellings, pronouns, position titles and attributed quotes, among other facts. 

During interviews, reporters are required by Illinois state law to ask sources for permission to record. Recording preserves quote accuracy, confirms spellings of names and ensures other factual information is delivered correctly. 

For extra security in our fact-checking process, all reporters use the cadit quaestio, or CQ, as a copy editing mark. We use them so copy editors can easily access the source of the reporter’s information. We ask each reporter to CQ twice for each proper noun and fact they provide.  

The CQ typically looks something like this: Northwestern [CQ][CQ] has four dining halls. [CQ][CQ

From this CQed section, a copy editor can confirm the spelling of the proper noun (Northwestern) and also verify the information presented in the sentence (both sources linked confirm NU has four dining halls). 

Sometimes, the information reporters attain cannot be verified online. In these cases, we allow reporters to replace one CQ with [reporter’s notes]. These notes are a promise that the source told the reporter the fact in question. This information can be verified by reviewing recordings if needed.

In recent years, the copy desk adopted a CQ requirement for each source’s pronouns in reported stories. These CQs look like this: name of source [pronouns: she/they, reporter’s notes]. We require all our reporters to ask their sources which pronouns they would like us to use in our article during interviews. 

Both reporter’s notes and pronouns are deleted after verification. The story then moves on to the editor in chief for final edits, and the verification process concludes. 

We take error correction and fact-checking very seriously. To us, no task is more important than ensuring our stories accurately reflect the communities we cover. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @nicolejmarkus

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joannah_11

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