A research editor, also frequently called a fact checker, ensures non-fictional information being presented to the public is true and accurate. She may work for a written publication, such as a newspaper or magazine, or check the accuracy of reports broadcast on the radio, television or Internet. Some editors also can find work in the book industry researching and editing manuscripts. A significant number of research editor positions are full-time staff jobs, but some professionals work as independent contractors for multiple employers.
Before a news story or informational article is presented to the public domain, it is the responsibility of the publisher or broadcaster to ensure it contains no untrue facts. The research editor is commonly expected to verify the information in the text or correct any erroneous statements or claims. These errors are normally made without malice and are usually the result of careless investigative procedures.
What distinguishes a research editor from a regular editor is the focus of her job. A regular editor commonly reviews work for grammar, spelling, punctuation and style. A research editor is normally concerned only with the validity of the information she examines and does not typically critique other aspects of the material.
The work of rookie reporters is a common area where a fact checker finds the most unsubstantiated information. This is generally attributed to the inexperienced reporter rushing their work to meet a deadline. A new reporter often erroneously assumes information provided to them by a third party or other resource is dependable.
Experienced journalists are customarily trusted to check the facts of their stories prior to submission to their editors. However, a research editor sometimes finds facts that are incorrect due to the passing of time. These are frequently statistics and facts that have recently been updated, unbeknown to the writer.
The job of fact checker frequently involves her review of work submitted by non-authors. These documents are commonly submitted for publication by experts on a subject who may not be experienced writers. Sometimes the facts they often can turn out to be assumptions of a particular group or industry. The research editor can customarily correct these types of errors by rewording the passages in question to make them reflect opinions and suppositions instead of proven facts.
A high school diploma or equivalent is normally required to apply for this position. A bachelor’s degree in journalism, media communications or creative writing is often preferred by employers. Experience as a reporter, general editor or non-fiction writer is highly desirable for research editor job applicants.