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June 7, 2011 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Katherine Goldstein writes about working as a fact checker for Cosmopolitan.
posted by reenum (41 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cosmopolitan is a pale shadow of what it used to be. From being in the vanguard of the feminist revolution, it is now just a purveyor of poor self image, shampoos, and bogus sex tricks. For shame!
posted by Renoroc at 7:34 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read the article, but I have no idea why I bothered.

Silly, unprepared girl gets a job she apparently isn't qualified to do and has no idea how to do it. So she quits (even though she's freelancing) and writes a column about the job.

It's not a unique job by any means. Perhaps the magazine has a bit of allure or glamour tied to it, but it's just another consumer magazine. She doesn't reveal anything shocking or new about the type of job she's doing. If anything she demonstrates how badly she does the job.

To me the entire piece came across as pointless, boring and annoying.
posted by sardonyx at 7:35 PM on June 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


I certainly wasn't learning anything about sex. All the advice seemed to be variations on earlier articles and ran together in my mind as I dissected the endless lists of tips and tricks.

I'm continuously astonished at the array of fine periodicals purporting to come up with something "new" in the sex game month after month.
posted by nanojath at 7:36 PM on June 7, 2011


Liked it better than that other fact checker confession,Bright Lights Big City.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:44 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I read the whole thing
posted by nathancaswell at 7:53 PM on June 7, 2011


Trick post; there are no facts in Cosmo.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:57 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... slightly clueless young woman dying to break into the glossy world of magazines gets her break in a menial job only to realize it wasn't everything she dreamed of (pitching ideas, networking with editors, etc)?

I thought this was titled The Devil Wears Prada?
posted by asciident at 8:00 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... slightly clueless young woman dying to break into the glossy world of magazines gets her break in a menial job only to realize it wasn't everything she dreamed of (pitching ideas, networking with editors, etc)?

I thought this was titled The Devil Wears Prada?


Man, I wish I spent 2 minutes reading a stupid article instead of 90 minutes watching that awful movie.

Sadly, I did both.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:02 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought it was funny.
posted by danb at 8:02 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dated a girl who worked at Vogue, she was the least Vogue person I had ever met. I think they hired her to just to torment her. Her entire job consisted of trying to return day old flowers and get new ones for free. She went on vacation and just never went back.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:11 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cosmopolitan Magazine cover parody. The best part is the comment from the creator:
"I’ve been sitting on this thing for almost a year because every time I return to it, I worry Cosmo’s already so absurd, it’s impossible to satirize them. Finally, I just decided to add some “FUCK”s to make it obvious, and call it done."
posted by stefanie at 8:53 PM on June 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


The headlines are all about confessions of a fact-checker at Cosmopolitan, and what she learned while freelancing at Cosmopolitan, but there is no confession and no sign of any learning.

DOES NOT DO WHAT IT SAYS ON THE CAN!
posted by vidur at 8:53 PM on June 7, 2011


This was remarkably similar to my experiences in porn.
posted by klangklangston at 9:00 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I should hope someone is checking whether or not those ten new sex tricks will really blow his mind. An institution like Cosmopolitan absolutely depends on rigorous methodology, and their readers demand it.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:11 PM on June 7, 2011


She got full-time work at a major magazine in New York City at 23? Jesus, when was this written, 1999?
posted by pts at 9:41 PM on June 7, 2011


She's Slate's "innovations editor", for what that's worth. I had no idea Cosmo's stories were edited, much less fact-checked.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:59 PM on June 7, 2011


I had no idea Cosmo's stories were edited, much less fact-checked

Are Slate's? Or is editing & fact-checking too Media 1.0?

I mean, did this woman really call the New Jersey Romeo stallion man about his soup carrying woman and did he really say that about his mother?
posted by chavenet at 3:02 AM on June 8, 2011


Where I learned fact-checking, you were not allowed to read quotes from the stories or otherwise lead sources into giving info you were after. So if a restaurant review said a chef was bald, I'd have to ask the manager, "What sort of hairstyle does the chef have?"

So don't believe anything you read in Cosmo.
posted by Camofrog at 5:08 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This just reminded me how boring and menial all writing jobs are at every level. *goes back to editing pointless branded newsletter*
posted by Summer at 5:12 AM on June 8, 2011


To me the entire piece came across as pointless, boring and annoying.

So it's just like Cosmo?
posted by orange swan at 5:14 AM on June 8, 2011


This was remarkably similar to my experiences in porn.

You fact-checked porn? I'm having a hard time imaging instances where that was called for. Is there niche stuff that I don't know about with facts presented? Perhaps it mirrors PBS programming but with full-on sex.

"Hey, about that show on the XYZ Affair: I spoke with the curator of the John Adams library and she's confident that he didn't shave his balls."

"I have shots of the Fermilab decontamination area and there's no evidence for a bowl full of condoms. Good news though-- I was skeptical, but the 'Cockcroft generator' is real."

"The documentary on the financial crisis is looking pretty solid. One thing: I looked through the tapes and it turns out that when she testified before Congress, Brooksley Born wasn't wearing a halter top. I can't get confirmation on the thong either way so that's probably the producer's call."

"You might have to take it up with legal to see how much plot deviation we're allowed as per the contract with Agatha Christie's heirs. I've got the full text of Murder is Announced right in front of me and Miss Marple doesn't engage in one act of fellatio, much less four."

"Sorry I'm late with this, but an hour of antiques is a lot of work. Anyway, it looks good except for the last segment and it's a big deal: Patent Office asserts that the Sybian wasn't invented until the late 90's. There's no way that one belonged to Queen Victoria."
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:25 AM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I dated a girl who worked at Vogue, she was the least Vogue person I had ever met. I think they hired her to just to torment her. Her entire job consisted of trying to return day old flowers and get new ones for free. She went on vacation and just never went back.

The Vogue science editor (? don't remember job title) asked better questions and showed more understanding than the majority of science journalists I've talked to.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:27 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is so run of the mill as far as fact-checking goes.
posted by etc. at 7:42 AM on June 8, 2011


Trick post; there are no facts in Cosmo.

Fact-checking as such doesn't really exist in the UK - we just have big lawyers. And superinjunctions.

I don't read women's glossies often, but when I do it seems very clear to me that they buy in (or whatever) the US 'true experience' or 'real life sex survey!' articles and simply change 'Greta, 29, Syracuse' to 'Kirsty, 29, Reading'. I'm sure this has gone on for a while, but when I visited the US in '99 and bought a copy of Cosmo it seemed quite a different animal to the quasi-feminist publication we had over here - it all seemed 'fun, fearless female' and cover lines on 'please him tonight!' - in a way I can't quite put my finger on. It just seems sort of cheap and nasty. There are dozens of young women with things to say - why not get more of them to write for these magazines?
posted by mippy at 8:23 AM on June 8, 2011


Silly, unprepared girl ... clueless young woman

I've known the author for nearly a decade. You're entitled to your opinion about this post, of course, but neither of those is a remotely accurate description of Katherine. I'm not sure what the ad-hom is doing to advance the discussion in this thread.

Carry on.
posted by andromache at 8:58 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"You fact-checked porn? I'm having a hard time imaging instances where that was called for. Is there niche stuff that I don't know about with facts presented? Perhaps it mirrors PBS programming but with full-on sex."

There's actually a fair amount of text in Hustler and Taboo, and for Hustler I ended up writing some profiles of MySpace Girls and Real College Girls which had a lot of those sort of tedious, awkward questions and answer sessions with people. Part of my problem in doing that was that very quickly, the sex parts became the least interesting thing at all about writing them (or checking them), where I just could not care less that some woman claimed her favorite position was either doggy or whatever got a man off.

The general feeling at porn mags is a seething contempt for the audience, but part of why I didn't last is that it developed in me into a seething contempt for almost everyone involved and their transparent attempts to pander, especially their pandering to people whom they loathed.

Nearly every woman I interviewed told me roughly the same thing, with only a few details changed regarding her background. "Why, your favorite position is also what will get your man off? How novel!"
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


it seems very clear to me that they buy in (or whatever) the US 'true experience' or 'real life sex survey!' articles and simply change 'Greta, 29, Syracuse' to 'Kirsty, 29, Reading'.

Some publications definitely do. I bought a copy of Men's Health and read it on a flight to London. When I was preparing to fly home, there was an abandoned copy of the British Men's Health in my empty train car and I started reading it. "Terry the Barkeep" was answering the same readers' questions that "Jimmy the Bartender" had answered in the US version that I had previously read. The only difference was that the submitters' locations had changed and the questions and answers used British vernacular instead of its US counterpart.

Jimmy the Bartender isn't real. It was like learning that Santa was dead.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:33 PM on June 8, 2011


Silly, unprepared girl ... clueless young woman

I've known the author for nearly a decade. You're entitled to your opinion about this post, of course, but neither of those is a remotely accurate description of Katherine. I'm not sure what the ad-hom is doing to advance the discussion in this thread.

Carry on.
posted by andromache Almost 7 hours ago [+]


Well if that's not who she is in real life than she's a really lousy writer (or a writer who wrote a really bad column).

I (and I presume the other poster) wouldn't have formed those opinions of her if she presented herself differently. Instead she created a character who was silly, unprepared and clueless.

Look if she really wanted to be a magazine writer or a journalist of some sort she should have had at least a vague idea about what fact-checking is and how to go about it. She said she didn't. After admitting that, she didn't act like a reporter -- she didn't read a book about fact-checking work, she didn't go online and hit any websites that explained how fact-checkers perform their jobs, she didn't (heaven forbid) actually phone up a real-life fact-checker and interview him/her about his/her job. She just sauntered into the office without a clue or a care in the world.

Additionally, as Camofrog explained, phoning people up and reading quotations to them is not how fact-checking should be done. In fact, it's exactly the opposite of how fact-checking should be done. (Of course, it does get done this way in some places due to the typical excuses of time constraints, budget constraints, and people who just don't know how to do their jobs).

Now maybe none of what she wrote is true. Maybe she knew exactly what she was getting herself into and exactly how to do the job. Then she's even more annoying because she's promoting the stereotype of the ditzy (typically female) reporter who is too stupid to do the job properly or to understand how to function in the real world. The type of reporter I'm talking about is the type when doing a spelling bee story says, "oh, I could never spell. Without spell check I'd be dead." The same type of reporter makes similar comments whenever a math/science/budget/science/technology/complex business story is up.

What makes these reporters so reprehensible is that by being stupid (or just playing stupid, sometimes it's hard to tell) they undermine the credibility of all journalists. People no longer have any faith that reporters know what they're talking about, or asking questions about. It's a lot harder to trust a reporter is doing the job correctly, if you can't trust him/her to ask a basic questions. It's just one of the reasons journalists typically rank among used-car salesmen and lawyers in polls about trustworthy professions.

And yes, I'd say exactly the same thing to her face if I happened to meet her and she asked me what I thought of her piece. I'd also tell her she was damned lucky to get the assignment (note, it's not a job that you can quit from -- if she considers herself a writer, she should learn how to use words properly -- it was a freelance arrangement, if what she wrote can be believed), especially when there were likely hundreds or thousands of well-qualified journalists who would have been thrilled to do the same work.
posted by sardonyx at 4:17 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


sardonyx summed that up nicely, so I'll just put this: it was not (intentionally) an ad hominem attack. It was a description. When the writer writes of herself, "I had only a vague sense of what fact-checking was," that makes her seem slightly clueless.
posted by asciident at 5:22 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well if that's not who she is in real life than she's a really lousy writer

Hi Carolyn: you've got a typographical error in the first sentence of your explanation of why this person is a poor writer.

I make this kind of error all the time -- most of us do! But then, I don't have a habit of confusing the words "than" and "then" in the beginning of a diatribe in which I proceed to call another writer "stupid" and "ditzy", (making a special, extra-ironical detour to deride journalists who rely upon spell-check!). My favorite part is when you conclude "she should learn to use words properly". You know -- because of the way that you used words improperly in first sentence of your missive?

You're new to Metafilter. Let me suggest that if the subject of a post isn't interesting to you, consider looking at another FPP rather than shitting in the thread. Or, you know, keep tossing stones around that beautiful glass house of yours.
posted by andromache at 9:27 PM on June 8, 2011


Huh. It is "spell-check."

Which looks like pronunciation for an Eastern Bloc town.

Now that I think about it, "spellcheck" looks cluttered and "spell check" could be confusing (both verbs nouned).
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 PM on June 8, 2011


Look here, Sebastian maybe you should get off your high horse before you fall off.

Sure, I'm a newbie here, but I've lurked long enough to know that typically people refer to each other by their chosen screen names, not by whatever real-life name they decide to include in their profiles. I guess you're too good for that. Or is there some other reason you figured you had to look up my profile and trot out my real name. Maybe you think you're my teacher and you're going to give me a "talkin to." Well you can take that idea and put it delicately where the sun doesn't shine.

Maybe you thought you could do an Internet search on me and dig up all kinds of dirt and throw it at me here. Sorry. You'll have to try much, much harder.

Or maybe you have an issue with a woman expressing an opinion and you want to demonstrate that a mere girl isn't entitled to say anything.

As for the way you post, you can certainly take a lesson from some of the masters here. First you go around spouting "ad hominem attack" when there was no such attack. Then you decide to nitpick on typos. I can't wait to see your next move. Perhaps Godwinning the thread in some bizarre way?

And yes, there was a typo in my post. There were also lots of casual, chatty grammatical constructions that don't belong in formal writing. And you know something, I don't really care. (Well actually the typo does annoy me a bit, and I'm honest enough to admit it.)

What I post on MeFi isn't journalism. It's not being held up to the standards of professional writing. It hasn't been edited. It hasn't been fact-checked. I haven't taken the time to read it, re-work it, re-write it and re-craft it. Presumably the writer in the original link did that. Or she should have done that as Slate is a professional news organization.

Part of being a professional writer or editor is knowing that not everybody will love what you write. Some people will downright hate it. If she (or you on her behalf) can't cope with that reality, maybe writing and editing isn't the right profession for either of you.

Actually part of contributing to a community forum is realizing that not everybody will agree with your point of view and learning to live with that reality. In this case I don't like what your friend wrote. Tough. You don't like what I had to say about your friend's writing. Tough. You can't seem to cope with that so you start to turn the thread into a place where you spout off personal attacks. That's not (or it shouldn't be) how the game is played, but if you want to carry on with the school yard antics be my guest. I'm through playing with you.

I don't post a lot. I don't thread-shit. I certainly don't comment on threads which don't interest me. I was interested enough in this topic and in this thread to read the link, and I was interested enough to voice my opinion. As far as I'm concerned, the link wasn't "the best of the web." It was far from it. I was annoyed that I wasted time reading the piece.

I hope you have fun writing up a nice scathing attack on what I've just posted.
posted by sardonyx at 8:26 AM on June 9, 2011


Oh, and yes, there are typos in the above post. You don't need to point them out to me. Unless, of course ,you really, really, really want to and don't have anything better to do with your time. Cheers.
posted by sardonyx at 8:27 AM on June 9, 2011


The statement "I had only a vague sense of what fact-checking was" as well as her descriptions of how she went about it, not to mention her reaction to simple reporting details like hearing about people's sex lives ("Gross." … Seriously? WTF?!?) all make her sound ridiculously unfit for the job. How is it people like that always somehow manage get into the business, while qualified yet aspiring writers who actually know the craft and would give their right arms to get into it are hardly ever given a chance?*

*I actually know the answer; it's a purely rhetorical question…
posted by Potsy at 11:34 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


she didn't read a book about fact-checking work,

There are books about this? Other than Bright Lights, Big City? Why are people taking this essay so seriously? Did the author take a job from a starving single mother in a wheelchair who was also a veteran? Who was then forced to become a sex-worker and couldn't finish her novel?

I can't imagine a universe where someone is fit for a job as a fact-checker at Cosmo.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:45 PM on June 11, 2011


There are books about this? Other than Bright Lights, Big City?
posted by Ideefixe at 1:45 PM on June 11


A good fact checker (or anybody with two seconds of free time and a link to Amazon) would find the Fact Checker's Bible and After the Fact among others.
posted by sardonyx at 4:45 PM on June 11, 2011


Well that tears it! i demand she renounce her job and spend the rest of her days in contemplation of her youthful folly.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:50 PM on June 11, 2011


> This just reminded me how boring and menial all writing jobs are at every level

I worked as a freelance factchecker for several years, and loved it. I got to spend time becoming an expert on something, fully immersed in it, for a few days, then leap on to the next subject.

I factchecked an article by Arthur Miller, I factchecked porn, I got in a fight about factchecking with Martha Stewart in an elevator, and I called Buckingham Palace to check that Prince Charles loved the Spice Girls. There were some boring articles -- the days at New Jersey Bride just dragged -- but overall it was a great job and if I still lived in New York I would want to go back to it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:42 PM on June 11, 2011


I got in a fight about factchecking with Martha Stewart in an elevator.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:42 PM on June 11


Now that sounds like an interesting factchecking story that would be worth my time to read.
posted by sardonyx at 8:59 PM on June 11, 2011


The theme for the next MeFi Mag is work. PLEASE write up that Martha Stewart story!
posted by klangklangston at 10:08 AM on June 12, 2011


It becomes less interesting the more details I provide, and ends with me running away from her while I shout "I'm not telling!"

Not my most dignified moment ever.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:50 AM on June 13, 2011


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