Line-by-line: Fact-checking yourself before publishing

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SVT’s assignment review system for fact checking, “line by line”, is used by investigative journalists both in Sweden and abroad. The method should ensure the quality of the publication and minimise the risk of errors, and it can be used even for smaller reviews.

Save all material from your work right from the start – documents, statistics, interviews, emails, screenshots, etc. Ask someone to act as devil’s advocate by trying to find gaps and critically question your work at an early stage.

Throughout the process, discuss the selection of facts and circumstances that contradict your hypothesis. Contact those responsible for the imbalance as early as possible. There may be relevant explanations you haven’t found out about.

Go through your finished script line by line and highlight EVERYTHING that consists of facts and everything that consists of your claims as a reporter. Go through the highlighted parts together with someone who will not be satisfied that you “know” the facts are true but who will want to see the supporting evidence, cross-check yourself, and so on. Remember that this applies to all facts – names, places, statistics, figures, quotes, environment descriptions, etc.

Highlight ALL criticism in your script. Then check that this criticism has been addressed at every point – again, preferably with someone else. Also ask yourself if the right person is addressing the criticism, and is this person giving their best arguments? Be generous in reproducing relevant mitigating circumstances. At this point, it is also important to double check that all of the quotes are accurate.

Remember the overall picture! Has something been taken out of context? Does the report make any allusions or insinuations? Does it contain something that is not relevant? Is something relevant missing?