ATLANTA — Clay Voytek has always been interested in learning. Growing up, he wanted to be a volcanologist before moving on to consider archaeology and teaching. Something clicked, however, when he joined his school newspaper during his first year in high school.
He’s been thinking and working as a journalist ever since.
Voytek will graduate this May with a double major in journalism and media entrepreneurship. While journalism was his plan when he first enrolled at Georgia State, his media entrepreneurship classes allowed him to continue exploring topics that interested him, like film writing, specialized editing and even the sociology of hip-hop.
He began working as a fact-checker for Atlanta magazine in January of 2020.
“It’s an important part of the [editorial] process,” Voytek said. “I never expected to fall in love with fact-checking, but the way my mind works, I have this analytical perspective.”
A few months later, Voytek took a break from his classes and began an internship with CNN’s The Row, which is the network’s story-vetting unit. The Row team works to fact-check stories for accuracy, but also considers the storytelling and how a sensitive topic should be handled. Voytek’s natural curiosity turned out to be an asset.
“There’s no day that I don’t learn something new or I’m not exposed to something new,” he said. “It’s so stimulating, and it’s work that I enjoy because it pushes me to just continually learn more.”
One of the projects he worked on was an explainer piece about mRNA vaccines. It was timely and important content, and in addition to being able to fact-check the details, he was able to point to things that could be clarified to better educate the public.
“The first time I saw it on air, I was so excited,” he said. “I heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta deliver lines that I had a hand in tweaking.”
Fact-checking may not typically be seen as a glamorous role, but Voytek understands the value of doing it well.
“You need that attention to detail, and you also need to care a lot,” he said. “You have to never stop caring. I’ll be looking at a script that might play on TV for two minutes and that’s it. It’s ephemeral. It’s there and gone. But that doesn’t change anything about the fact that we’re putting that out there and it has the full weight of the brand.”
While the work can be taxing at times, Voytek remains engaged and hopes to continue with the team after graduation.
Photo by Meg Buscema