People who know me well are not surprised when I tell them that I enjoy fact checking.
People who don’t know me very well look some combination of shocked, horrified, or judgmental when I tell them that I enjoy fact checking.
What they are missing is that fact checking is not about proving people wrong — I don’t like having to flag notes or facts and then follow up for a “can I see your data set” conversation. It’s not about making anyone look bad or asking them to do more work and more research… it’s about ensuring that what is produced is the best piece we can build together.
For me, the fact check is like being a sleuth. I need to figure out what kinds of questions the initial data collectors were asking and whether or not the data is being interpreted accurately when it’s allowed to roam free and be interpreted by other people outside the initial collection team. This is sort of like sniffing out the initial environment of the “scene of the crime” where the data was collected.
Then I get to check out the arguments the opponents or other groups are making and see where there are interpretation issues. Sometimes data sets are very consistent.. sometimes it’s an entirely different story.
I get to look up conversations between brilliant thinkers and try to track down the initial inception point of a thought or idea that became a major piece of intellectual capital.
I get to have really cool conversations about strengthening arguments and narratives with facts. I LOVE this part. I want to make my speakers be the best they can be, because the talk should be able to stand on its own at the point that it’s given… and years later or when its viewed online by people in other contexts.
I hope next time people wont be so horrified when I tell them that I love fact checking. I know I always appreciate the feedback on my own work.