Legal Vetting: The Enquirer’s legal team is very much a part of the vetting and verification process. (The only other publication I know of that requires as much legal review of copy is Playboy.) Levine says anything in a story that is new information specific to the Enquirer’s reporting must be sourced and provided to the company’s lawyers. “We pull all of this information together to allow our attorneys to make a decision whether or not we should proceed,” Levine says. As an example, the Enquirer lawyers required editors and reporters to go back and get additional corroboration before giving the green light to publish about Tiger Woods’s infidelity. “We spent additional time, made a source go on the record, did polygraph tests, and got additional documents that nailed the story,” Levine says.
Investigations of Sources: “We’ll investigate sources if necessary,” Levine says. I ask if that means he will hire a private investigator to look into a source’s background and life. “If I feel it’s necessary,” he says. “Obviously, on many stories we’ve tied our credibility to that source’s credibility. If I’m concerned about a story or a source I’ll check them out just like I will check out a celebrity or newsmaker.” That includes checking the source’s statements about themselves against what the investigator finds, and “seeing if they are who they say they are.”
Traditional Fact-Checking: Yes, they do this boring old kind of verification as well. Levine says there are roughly six people in the magazine’s Florida-based research/fact-checking department. They check quotes with people who have gone on the record and verify information such as the spelling of names, addresses etc. (The department was created after Carol Burnett won a judgment against the Enquirer in 1981). “The fact-checking department are not necessarily involved in vetting sources but they are involved with the editorial and legal process,” he says.
Say what you want about their brand of journalism, but you can’t say that Enquirer doesn’t care about vetting and verification. And, yes, I’d be willing to submit myself to Levine’s battery of tests to back that up.
Correction of the Week
“IN yesterday’s edition of the Irish Sun, we published a story about an arrest made by gardai in the investigation into the murder of innocent Noel Crawford.
“The photograph accompanying the story was stated to be a picture of the late Mr Crawford but it was in fact an image of the late Limerick criminal Noel Campion.
“We apologise unreservedly to the Crawford family for any distress caused by the error.
“We would once more like to point out that Mr Crawford had no criminal record.” – The Sun (U.K.)