The Role of Libraries in Combating Fake News

Librarianship | May 05, 2017

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Unfortunately, fake news is a fact of life in today’s world. When anyone can post anything at any time on various social platforms, how can a reader evaluate the reliability of a source?

In an article from hometownlife, Steve McGladdery defines fake news as “any posted or printed article that is demonstrably false, regardless of opinion on the matter.” He points out that while researchers may have a hard time separating fact from fiction, they should know that librarians are information literacy experts, essentially the “information gatekeepers” who can direct them to dependable resources like peer-reviewed, vetted content in full-text databases.

Kalev Leetaru, a media writer for Forbes magazine, states in a recent article that “fake news exists because as a society we have failed to teach our citizens data and information literacy.” He says that as a whole “we don’t know how to think critically about data and information.”

The Stanford Graduate School of Education conducted a recent study that found that students — ranging from middle school to college age — have trouble identifying legitimate news stories from a field of editorial pieces, advertorials and advertisements. In addition, the students were unable to accurately identify the source of the information.

Fake news is not a new concept, “yellow journalism” — the spread of erroneous, misleading and sensationalized information — has been around since the 1890s. Even before that, many of the Founding Fathers used partisan newspapers to attack one another. The issue is getting a lot more attention now because it is so easy to disseminate false information to a world of readers through ubiquitous social media and online outlets.

As information gatekeepers, librarians not only point researchers to legitimate information sources, but also can direct students and researchers to explore the topics of fake news, journalistic integrity, responsible journalism and media literacy online using full-text databases with vetted, peer-reviewed journal content. Such vetted content can be found in EBSCO databases including Academic Search Ultimate.

Learn more about Academic Search Ultimate

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