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What Roy Acuff Can Teach Us about Fact-checking

Sadly, the guidebook has become a bit of a slog.

I’d hoped to restructure and rewrite the majority of the book, giving it my own stamp and voice, but a tight deadline and the fact that the previous edition was woefully out of date has meant that I’ve had to accept this edition’s limitations. I’m not going to be able to do much more than triage.

It turns out that about 60% of the book, while presumably last updated in 2009-2010, is comprised of material hasn’t been completely fact-checked in 10-20 years. There was plenty of evidence of this along the way: dozens of addresses that were wrong–so many that it became clear it wasn’t a matter of businesses just moving–businesses that had been closed even before the last edition was released, and more, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across a reference to Roy Acuff that I realized how much of a problem I had on my hands.

I grew up listening to country music and I was pretty sure Roy Acuff was dead. As in… probably-now-dust-dead. A quick Google search confirmed my hunch:

Roy Acuff died in  1992.

Roy Acuff died in 1992.

Now, I’m not good with numbers, but 1992 is a long time. The guidebook has gone through multiple editions since then and nobody caught this until now. I might not have caught it either, had I not listened to WSSL 100 every morning for years on my way to school.

What can this teach us about fact-checking?

Well, for starters, it should remind us that fact-checking isn’t simply Googling to make sure businesses are still open and that all their contact information is correct (you already know that phone calls are better, right?). Fact-checking is more nuanced, and if you’re not paying close, constant attention, it’s easy to miss dated information that’s not so obvious. Here’s a quick list of what you should keep an eye out for when you’re involved in guidebook writing and updating; I hope you find it useful in your own work:

-College Names: Has a college become a university?
-Personalities: Are they still alive?
-”Modern Amenities”: In my opinion, wired Intenet no longer merits a
mention as a “modern” amenity (at least not in
the “developed” world).
-”30-year tradition”: All of the “30-year traditions” or “the family
business owned for three generations” are now 20
years older and two more generations advanced.
Better to say “established in 1952,” which
doesn’t require constant updating.
-Branded Venue Names: Shea Stadium was demolished, rebuilt, and
rebranded in 2008, before the current edition of
the guidebook was published. It’s no longer Shea;
now, it’s Citi Field. Any venue that’s branded
tends to get renamed fairly frequently. Be sure
to double check; I found several venues whose
names have changed.
-Pop Culture References: Consider what’s now passé. References to
“Friends” and “Seinfeld” may have been fresh and
relevant a decade or two ago, but now they feel
outdated.

This is hardly an exhaustive list. Guidebook writers/updaters- what would you add?

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One response »

  1. Pingback: All the Things We’ve Lost | Collazo Projects

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