This article is edited from a story shared exclusively with members of The Masthead, the membership program from The Atlantic (find out more). Atlantic fact-checking editor Yvonne Rolzhausen walks us through her fact-checking routine, a process that continues, sometimes for months, until she and her team have confirmed every last line.
In a world where misinformation thrives and basic editorial standards are often jettisoned as unnecessary expenses, fact-checkers can sometimes feel like an endangered species. But The Atlantic is dedicated to accuracy and truth—and therefore to rigorous fact-checking. Our pieces seek to be thought-provoking and interesting—but to be truly insightful, they must be right.
Checkers verify every fact published in our magazine, from specific details and quotes to larger generalities. We think about a piece on a variety of levels: Are the basic facts correct? Are the facts underlying various opinions correct? And, finally, do they all fit together into a comprehensive and solid argument? We go word by word, line by line. For an intensively-reported piece, I might have dozens of sources to contact and hundreds of questions for an author. The process can take anywhere from a few hours (for a very short article) to weeks or even months (for a complex, legally-fraught one).