The problem with publishing books or internet articles, especially non-fiction writing, is that when anything appears in print, that content is then in stone. It can not be called back at that point.
In non-fiction writing in particular, it is absolutely critical that your facts be accurate and properly expressed. Otherwise your words have the potential to do great harm. Your writing must have truth.
I just heard a true story recently that illustrates this point. In a nearby state, a young man and young woman were in a very serious accident, and the young man was killed. He had lived an exemplary life and was engaged to be married to another young woman.
He and this first woman were traveling, as friends, to a party when the accident occurred. The first young woman was badly injured but survived.
Tragic, yes, but what happened afterwards was even worse. The local paper reported the accident and then because it was a slow news day, some reporter “wrote” a story about the accident. He told how the young man was a sex offender, and this libelous story was reported not only in the newspaper but also on the internet.
The story was not true–it had NO basis in fact. It was the figment of some reporter’s wicked imagination.
As soon as the family saw the article, they called and the newspaper recanted in the hard copy and pulled down the internet copy. BUT, all of these actions were too late.
How many people saw that first article, but never heard the REAL story? This is a lesson in how to ruin someone’s good reputation in ten words or less. This is also a study of the consequences of inaccuracies in writing.
Whenever you write non-fiction, there are some rules to follow:
- Let the research lead your story.
In other words, don’t only look at research that supports your opinion and then only use it. Consider all of the research available before you form your thesis. Let the research that you have found determine your conclusions and write from that point.
- Check and then double check your facts.
Inaccuracies can distort history or destroy a person’s reputation. Be truthful in your reporting.
- Don’t ever forget that people believe wholeheartedly what is printed.
In books, articles, and newspapers, inaccuracies can be recanted, but that is poor in comparison to what should have happened: no erroneous material should ever be consciously written.
The internet is an even worse forum: once something is on the internet, it is there forever–not matter whatever comes after. There are no guarantees that the recant is going to be connected with the original story once everything goes out on the internet. As I said, it is written in stone.
I repeat: check, then recheck your facts. Make sure that the way you write and use them is also truthful. It is the right/write way to do things.