One of the most surprising parts about publishing SOMETHING MISSING was learning about the fact-checking that goes into a work of fiction. During the process of final revision, an editor was assigned to fact-check nonfiction elements of my book. She went so far as to confirm my assertions about lock picking and verify the route that a character drove when traveling from Newington to West Hartford. She even found a possible problem in timing due to daylight savings time, a factor I had failed to consider when writing the book. It was quite a thorough examination of the manuscript.
Recently I had an idea for a book in which the main character is one of these fact-checking editors, and it’s now competing in my mind with one other idea to be my next book once THE CHICKEN SHACK is complete. If it wins, I hope to spend a couple days in New York meeting a couple of these fact-checking editors, in order to learn more about the job.
And apparently fact-checkers are in demand, at least at the New York Times, where a piece by Alessandra Stanley about Walter Cronkite included an astounding correction:
Correction: July 22, 2009
An appraisal on Saturday about Walter Cronkite’s career included a number of errors. In some copies, it misstated the date that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and referred incorrectly to Mr. Cronkite’s coverage of D-Day. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968, not April 30. Mr. Cronkite covered the D-Day landing from a warplane; he did not storm the beaches. In addition, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, not July 26. “The CBS Evening News” overtook “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” on NBCin the ratings during the 1967-68 television season, not after Chet Huntley retired in 1970. A communications satellite used to relay correspondents’ reports from around the world was Telstar, not Telestar. Howard K. Smith was not one of the CBS correspondents Mr. Cronkite would turn to for reports from the field after he became anchor of “The CBS Evening News” in 1962; he left CBS before Mr. Cronkite was the anchor. Because of an editing error, the appraisal also misstated the name of the news agency for which Mr. Cronkite was Moscow bureau chief after World War II. At that time it was United Press, not United Press International.
How is this even possible?