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Navigating News

Category: GEPL News
Posted: September 25, 2017

By: Ian Lashbrook, Instruction Librarian and Business Liaison

Fake News at GEPLThe term “fake news” is a charged and difficult one these days. It’s used almost constantly and in very different ways, but I think the one thing we can all agree on is that the proliferation of completely false news stories needs to stop. Facebook and Google have already takes steps to curb the spread of false news stories, but there are best practices and tools that individual news readers can utilize to make sure the stories they are reading — especially online — are legitimate and factual.

The following tips have been re-purposed from a publication by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions entitled How to Spot Fake News.

  1. Consider the Source: Be sure you know the political agenda of a website or publication, if it has one. Also, consider the author of the piece and his/her credentials. This can be applied to pundits and representatives that appear on cable news channels; do they have an agenda? If so, what is it?
  2. Check the Date: Be aware of publication dates; a story may have been significantly updated or may be so old that it is no longer relevant. This is particularly important in regards to breaking news stories that may change quite a bit as they unfold.
  3. Check Your Biases: Consider how your own beliefs can affect your judgement. This is one way fabricated news stories spread; it sounds good enough to be true or you want it to be true (but it isn’t).
  4. Read Beyond: Beware of outrageous headlines or “clickbait;” what’s the whole story? Read the entirety of the article or check a different source regarding the same topic. Reading about both sides of a polarizing issue is the best way to understand the entirety of that issue.
  5. Supporting Sources: Look at the sources and links listed with a story, especially if the story is controversial. Have those supporting sources been used correctly by the author of the article? Do the supporting sources paint a different color than the author?
  6. Is It a Joke?: Does it sound absurd or too crazy to be true? It may be satire. Websites like The Onion and articles like The Borowitz Report in the New Yorker are satirical and do not go to great lengths to tell you so. It’s up to you to decipher satire and truth.
  7. Ask the Experts: Remember that you can always check with your local librarians or information professionals regarding the validity of information. Also, there are several great fact-checking websites available for free online, including politifact.com, factcheck.org, and snopes.com.

If you would like to hear more about deciphering today’s complicated news landscape, please attend the Fake News Series at the Glen Ellyn Public Library!

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