Like many publications, the Missourian requires its reporters to mark certain facts with the letters “CQ”* in notes mode to denote that the fact has been verified. What exactly we CQ and how we do the verification are being considered by Tom now, but I thought I would share the CQ policy that I enforced at The Wichita Eagle when I was the copy desk chief there.

In Wichita, we emphasized to reporters and line editors that CQ represented a contract of sorts, a certification that the fact in question has been specifically and deliberately verified. A CQ by a name means that the writer specifically verified the spelling of the name with the source. A CQ by a phone number means that the writer actually called the number to verify that it was correct.

On the copy desk, we treated CQ with a healthy dose of skepticism. We would routinely challenge suspect CQs and spot-check many of them — phone numbers and Web addresses especially. When we found a CQ’d item that was incorrect, word went back to the reporter, his editor and the managing editor about the problem. Disciplinary steps were taken with writers who had chronic problems with CQ’d errors.

What did we CQ? Here’s the list:

  • Most proper names. Very routine names, such as the mayor’s, wouldn’t necessarily require a CQ, but any unfamiliar name would, and even familiar names would if they were tricky.
  • Phone numbers. A CQ by a phone number meant that the reporter actually called the number to test it.
  • Web addresses. A CQ here meant that the reporter copied the address from the story and tested it in a Web browser.
  • E-mail addresses. A CQ here meant that the reporter had sent a test e-mail to the address and that the e-mail hadn’t bounced back.
  • Any correct but strange fact. The reporter is acknowledging that something that looks wrong is, in fact, right and that he or she has carefullly and specifically verified this.


* My very limited research suggests that “cq” stands for cadit quaestio, Latin for “the question falls.” It’s also a legal term indicating that an argument has been resolved or a case has been settled. I’ve heard others insist that “cq” stands for “correct but queer” or “checqued.”