As the associate editor of Gather magazine, I wear many hats: Phone-answerer. Lost-issue-mailer. Promotional-ink-pen-designer.
Perhaps the hat that challenges me the most, though, is that of fact-checker.
Gather’s authors are indeed knowledgeable and thoughtful writers, but anyone can make a mistake. Therefore, we editors must don our fact-checking headgear.
Gather’s March issue, for instance, featured a reflection by Sojourner White about her namesake Sojourner Truth.
Did you know that Sojourner Truth:
- was sold into slavery at the age of nine?
- was one of the first black women to win a court case against a white man?
- toured the country advocating for equal rights for all women?
Perhaps you did know these facts. Many people, I think, know these facts.
I, however, did not.
The challenge of fact-checking
And this is what I find so challenging about fact-checking.
More and more these days I realize that there’s a lot I probably should know that I simply haven’t taken the time to learn.
In the last week alone, I’ve Googled:
- What’s a pepita? (It’s a pumpkin seed.)
- How do you change a furnace air filter? (It’s pretty easy, it turns out)
- How do you view your Google search history? (I just did that one. Now. For this blog)
We all have lists like this—things we probably should know, but, for some reason, we’ve just never taken the time to track down the information.
Yam or sweet potato?
On a recent episode of This American Life, producer Diane Wu discussed a similar list of her own. She vowed not just to create her list, but to set about answering each of the questions on it—like what’s the difference between a yam and a sweet potato or what is the Schottky Barrier.
Wu answered the first question, but newly aware of the immense time and effort it takes to answer these questions thoroughly, she gave up—as many of us do.
As Christians, however, I wonder: Do we have a greater responsibility to be informed?
For instance, if I’m truly following the example of Jesus, shouldn’t I know why I keep hearing on the news that there are so many refugees at the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh (I didn’t until I forced myself to look it up just now).
As a Lutheran, shouldn’t I actually have read the Augsburg Confession? (I haven’t).
Before I came across the story in my daughter’s children’s Bible, shouldn’t I have already known that Moses’ sister Miriam follows him down the river and is there when Pharaoh’s daughter fishes him out of the river? (I have no idea how I missed this detail in 33 years in church).
We can’t know everything
We can’t know everything, of course.
But this year I am vowing to take my fact-checking away from my desk and out into the world. There are places in my life where “I don’t know” should not be good enough.
What should you know that you haven’t taken the time to learn yet?
Sarah Carson is associate editor of Gather magazine.