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Concerned by Fake News? The Library Is Too

By Diana Laughlin, Tech Literacy Librarian
Estes Valley Library has been selected as one of only five libraries nationwide to convene Media Literacy programming through a grant from the American Library Association (ALA).

The Library will bring together residents with a variety of perspectives, in the goal that civic engagement can be elevated so that Fake News does not divide our valley. Look for a Featured Speaker, Panel Discussion, and News Literacy Trainings beginning this February.

The proliferation of new media sources is overwhelming. I wish I had a road map detailing each outlet’s bias, agenda, and funding source. But any map is elusive, confusing, and constantly changing. I’ve been tricked by articles appearing as news, but I later realize they’re advertising, entertainment, satire, or commentary.

It’s uncomfortable watching news on outlets I once trusted. I find myself questioning whether the information is true or misleading me.

The FBI is investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election through the media. I’m alarmed at the threat to our national security and freedom posed by seemingly small things like a meme posted online.

I’m frustrated that my thoughts and beliefs are potentially being manipulated by Internet platforms. Can I truly call my opinions my own, or were they cleverly crafted for me? Are these platforms truly promoters of free speech, connectivity, and openness if they direct my interactions solely toward “Friends” with whom I agree?

The filter bubbles on Google, Facebook, etc. are alarming because I no longer see unbiased information in my web searches and feeds. My results are targeted to my preferences, meaning I see only what I “like”, click on, or share, because my actions generate that site’s advertising revenue.

Some of my Facebook friends’ posts could be fake news. They didn’t compare information across outlets from a variety of social and political viewpoints. Some of them didn’t even read the article before clicking “Share.” (Apologies to my FB friends—still love you guys!)

Thank goodness for libraries. Libraries help us access quality information sources. We help citizens gather, learn, and grow in a neutral space free from social and political pressures.

After attending a News Literacy training offered by Stony Brook University and sponsored by ALA, I’m proud to say that I feel less confused when I check the news. I understand that breaking news stories may not yet contain complete details, so it’s better to sidestep speculations. I’m cautious when a story creates a strong reaction or emotion; that can be the breeding ground of fake news. I check journalists’ contact information, reviewing that website’s “About” section. I evaluate knowledge of the witnesses. Did the reporter visit the scene? Are both sides presented? I intentionally seek information from outlets with different viewpoints than my own.

To keep speech free, information transparent, and our country safe, we must take individual responsibility for the media we consume and share. Our Library programs will help us become better news consumers. Please join us at the Library in early 2018 as we begin this conversation.