Librarians Assist Students in Wading through the Mire of Fake News

One of the most prevalent terms saturating the media outlets today is the term “fake news.” Throughout this campaign season, the politicians, media personalities, newspapers, and social media have been inundated with the idea that from left to right, the news that America is digesting is by one side or the other being falsified. How can students who are transitioning through this unsettling time be expected to trust in any form of information presented to them? How are they to even begin to navigate these unprecedented times of intentional misleading? First, students need to understand the meaning of the term, “fake news.”

What is Fake News?

In an effort to understand and expound upon this term, one may turn to a reputable source such as a dictionary. Merriam-Webster, in the article, “The Real Story of ‘Fake News,’ declares, “Fake news is, quite simply, news (“material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast”) that is fake (“false, counterfeit”).” Interesting. Now, the next logical question is, Why would anyone purposely spread information that he or she knows is incorrect?

As Clay Johnson so eloquently quipped in The Liturgists podcast, “Fake News and Media Literacy,” “Who wants to hear the truth when they can hear that they are right?” As humans, we constantly seek reinforcement and justification that what we think, believe, and understand must indeed be truth. People don’t usually seek to be proven wrong (except maybe scientists). As a general rule, we want to see ourselves as the purveyors of wisdom and knowledge. However, if we are to truly become intellectual beings, we must realize that only through intensive study and humility can we begin to understand that the search for truth is a daunting and never-ending pursuit.

The Explosion of Information

In the past, citizens relied heavily upon newscasters and journalists to seek out and bestow upon us the fruits of their unbiased and exhaustive efforts at uncovering truth. Families would listen raptly to the radio or devour the newspaper in an effort to comprehend the world around them. They trusted the men and women who spent their days and nights tirelessly in the pursuit of truth. Today, however, the news medias are under intense scrutiny because of this prevalent influx of “fake news.”

What About the Children?

In order for students to learn basic tools for deciphering the difference between what is real and what is fabricated, librarians and classroom teachers must develop curricula to address the permeation of questionable information that is propogated as true and unbiased news. In an effort to navigate these perilous waters, the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) has developed a framework by which educators and librarians can begin to teach invaluable strategies to students in an effort to assist their foray into the information tsunami. Students gain tools in creating, evaluating, researching, and disseminating information in an inclusive and open-minded manner.

What Does this Mean for the Future of Information Literacy?

As Matthew Grogan, producer of The Liturgists podcast, added in “Fake News and Media Literacy,” people must now develop their own tools to determine what are reliable sources and stories. Co-host William Matthews also shared that information seekers should research credible news outlets who have a board of editors who fact-check stories, dates and names are provided with the articles, numbers and graphs should be closely monitored for accuracy, and readers should check their emotions (if a story makes you angry or elated, it may not be factual). In addition, Joyce Valenza, in her article, “Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world,” addresses the need for students to be taught the importance of discovering news specific reliability. She challenges librarians to “aid students in discerning credibility, reliability, and bias in context of their information needs and the context of the text itself.” Therefore, educators and librarians stand at the precipice of this mountain of information, and we must teach our students the safe and rational means for reacing the summit of discerning reliable information from all media sources.

Resources

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. (2020, September 29). Retrieved January 27, 2021, from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework

Grogan, M. (Producer). ( 2021, January 27). Fake news and media literacy [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://theliturgists.com/podcast/2017/3/7/fake-news-media-literacy

“The Real Story of ‘Fake News’ary by Merriam-Webster”. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/the-real-story-of-fake-news

Valenza, J. (2017, December 20). Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/11/26/truth-truthiness-triangulation-and-the-librarian-way-a-news-literacy-toolkit-for-a-post-truth-world/


6 thoughts on “Librarians Assist Students in Wading through the Mire of Fake News

  1. Your post was well written and caused me to think about how the information the media gives was perceived in the past, how it is perceived now, and what it will be like in the future. Information today can be changed and modified to meet the needs of an individual. No longer can students trust what they read and watch without asking the questions about where it originated from. When it comes to this topic, I find myself looking to other resources that can help me to find frameworks and lessons to teach this topic not only to my students but to myself. Sometimes this feels overwhelming but I know it is an area students must be taught. -Jennifer Clay

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    1. After posting to your blog I came across an article I wanted to share. I found it interesting because it talked about changing our terminology when we work with students from the word “fake”. Let me know what you think about it. It provides another insight into the information our students are having to process on a day to day basis. https://www.librarygirl.net/post/let-s-stop-using-the-term-fake-news-a-free-media-literacy-vocabulary-activity . The lesson within this article would be a great place to start in working with students and terminology. -Jennifer Clay

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  2. Michele,
    I enjoyed your post this week. I agree with your statement that librarians are standing on a precipice. The amount of information available is so overwhelming. Daily I ask students where they got their information. Most of the time, they say TikTok. I then go into a conversation that TikTok is not a reliable source for your information. I even feel my head start to swim when I turn on my television in the evenings just to catch up on the news. It is a big responsibility in front of us, but so very worth it. -Robin Reeves.

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  3. Hi, Michele! I think the question that you posed “Why would anyone purposely spread information that he or she knows is incorrect?” is exactly what we must train our students to ask themselves each time they “digest” information. I think it is so important for students to realize that there is a purpose behind everything they read or watch. We must make sure that we, in our roles as school librarians, must question everything we “digest,” too.

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  4. I also wonder what our future holds as far as information literacy and what the future holds. It is so easy to fake news stories now with all the digital tools available. It would be interesting to have a tool like a plagiarism checker to run articles through to check for accuracy and reliability!

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  5. Your mention of an “information tsunami” is such a perfect description for what our youth are experiencing I thought that young people were spending more time on their phones because they were interacting with one another more than adults did. It was not until my 11 year old cousin got a phone that I realized that she and her friends spend less time interacting than adults do, but spend much more time watching videos on Youtube, seeing ads in games, and then of course seeing the many videos that are on TIkTok and other social medias. My students are much the same. They shared that they spend hours watching Youtube videos, searching up and reading about celebrities, making and watching videos on social media, and having some type of media in their face the entire time they are awake.
    We can teach them how to search for information, find credible sites and sources, and how to credit their sources, but until we truly know what they are exposed to digitally, we will never be able to fully arm them with the tools they need to be safe and responsible in this digital age.

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