I loved the way The Liturgist Podcast described the term “fake news” as it is most often used today. In recent years, the term “fake news” has been thrown around so much that it is sometimes difficult to discern the true meaning of that word, especially since quite often the word is not used correctly. As Clay Johnson states,
“Fake news is when an article is written with the purpose of driving traffic or getting marketing, and it exists to encourage consumers to take notice and look at it.
Fake news is not when news outlets make an honest mistake or express a bias without disclosing it. It allows people to turn this fake news label against legitimate sources of information and creates a sense of media nihilism where the determination we make for whether something is real news or fake news is whether we agree with it.” (Gungor, 2017).
I completely agree with this description of how many individuals view this term, especially when referring to politics or other hot button issues. This is one of the reasons we as information professionals teach our students about bias. News outlets, media programs, and blog writers are not the only people who show bias. We as individuals all have preexisting bias that we view the world through, and this can impact our ability to think critically about information. If we only seek out information that appeals to our own view of the world, it can be difficult to consider any other perspective.
The methodology for testing news claims that Clay Johnson describes also piqued my interest as a school librarian, because that is something that I absolutely want to be able to keep in mind. I honestly sat down and typed up his bulleted list while I listened, and appreciated how simple some of his suggestions were but also the impact of the extra emphasis he placed on certain aspects of determining credibility. I would highly suggest you listen to the whole podcast yourself to get the full content, the link will be listed below.
The Liturgist Podcast: Fake News & Media Literacy
I found that Clay Johnson’s points related to a blog post by Joyce Valenza on Neverending Search (2016) about news literacy. Even news that has been edited and reviewed prior to publication can end up leaning in a particular direction, and some of that is related to word choice. How a news article uses words to tell its story can have a serious impact on the way that story is received by the audience, and the same story can be told from multiple different lenses and have the meaning be changed as a result. This is one of the reasons one should not rely on only one source of news, and attempt to read about the same story from multiple different news outlets.
I agree with many of Clay Johnson’s points of the necessity of being aware of what information one considers as factual, and why it is important to determine whether an information source is trustworthy prior to spreading it around. I tried to look into his research about information diet, but the link to his website on the podcast page was broken. Upon doing a bit more research into the topic, I found that this term is highly important for school librarians. We as information professionals should always do our best to remain knowledgeable and seek to grasp a more complete view of any given story, since there are an endless number of ways to interpret some news sources. For me personally, I never like to only view a story that interests me from one perspective. If I find one article about a topic that I want to learn more about, I try to go back and see if I can find other articles talking about it. I very rarely only read a news story that interests me from just one source, as I want to make sure that one news source is not painting events or individuals in a specific light to tell a specific narrative.
Just as important as using a variety of information sources is going back and reevaluating information after time has passed to see if there have any changes or new developments, especially when it comes to news stories. As information professionals, we should never draw conclusions based on information from anonymous sources, especially during ongoing events or investigations. It can be very easy to get swept away in the ethos of a news piece, and let anger or fear drive you to share the information without adequately testing its validity. If you found out a week later that the article you shared was incorrect or at minimum seriously misleading, it would be detrimental to one’s own sense of pride in their own credibility as an information professional. That is why it is so critical for us to practice what we preach. If your own librarian is (intentionally or not) spreading misinformation, then what reason should students have to trust their judgement?
Gungor, M. (Host). (2017, March 7). Fake news & media literacy. [Audio podcast episode]. In The Liturgist Podcast. https://theliturgists.com/podcast/2017/3/7/fake-news-media-literacy
Valenza, J. (2016, November 26). Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world. Neverending Search, School Library Journal. https://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/11/26/truth-truthiness-triangulation-and-the-librarian-way-a-news-literacy-toolkit-for-a-post-truth-world/