Nowadays, finding information on an almost limitless number of issues is as easy as opening a browser on your computer or phone, typing the question you want answered or the subject about which you want to learn, and waiting a second or two for a list of links to be displayed. At this juncture is up to the individual to determine which of the links contain accurate, verifiable information, and which are bunk. Some of these determinations are easy. However, it has become commonplace for purveyors of false information to cleverly disguise their intentions and deceptive content.
Although it has always been judicious for consumers of news to approach the task with a modicum of skepticism, the proliferation of media outlets has made it necessary to find ways of determining the validity of the information obtained from the source. That is, consumers must develop media literacy.
Given its vital role in serving the information needs of the Red Bank community, it is incumbent upon the Library to offer guidance to patrons about the evaluation of the information that they uncover while using its resources. This annotated bibliography is intended for both young and adult patrons. It identifies Web sites that are frequently cited on news broadcasts and describes their uses. Also, articles and video presentations on the Web are included that will assist patrons to enhance their media literacy. In each case, hyperlinks are included that allow the patron to open the referenced sites.
Part I – Definition of Terms
- Disinformation - False information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth. False information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media. It often serves to confound, manipulate, brainwash, or gaslight. This is Fake News.
- Fake News - The printing and dissemination of spurious (bogus) information. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead. It is false information or propaganda published under the guise of being authentic news.
- Media Literacy - Media literacy is the ability to interpret media text and evaluate media institutions, to create media of one’s own, and to understand and utilize the social and political influence of media in everyday life. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the complex, ever-changing electronic environment and communication cornucopia that surround us.
- Misinformation - False or inaccurate information that is simply wrong irrespective of whether it is deliberate or accidental, a genuine mistake or criminal incompetence.
- Post-Truth – Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. In this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire. Provides a rationale for why fake news has taken such a hold on the public.
- Published Information - Something created to communicate with the public. The noun publication comes from the Latin word publicare, meaning “make public.” The presentation of copies or phonorecords to a group of people for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication.
- Truthiness – Perception that something seems or feels like it is true, even if not necessarily true. The quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. A wide range of motivations influence information seeking and information avoidance. The quality of seeming to be true is based on one's intuition, opinion, or perception without regard to logic, factual evidence, or the like. There is a growing trend of truthiness as opposed to truth.
Part II – Articles that Discuss the Standards for the Recognition of Fake News
New York Times, January 26, 2017. Teaching tips that train students to recognize fake news.
National Public Radio, December 5, 2016. Transcript of an NPR broadcast that describes six best practices that people can use when reading articles online. Brief, interesting read!
- Poynter Institute
The mission statement of the Poynter Institute declares that it “is a global leader in journalism . . as the world’s leading instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens in 21st Century democracies.”
- The International Fact-Checking Network is committed to promoting excellence in fact-checking. The code of five principles is for organizations that regularly publish nonpartisan reports on the accuracy of statements by public figures, major institutions, and other widely circulated claims of interest to society.
- PunditFact is the fact-checking unit of the Tampa Bay Times that fact-checks newspaper columnists to television commentators. The link contains a broadcast held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that offers an in-depth look at the impact of PunditFact's work and how the fact-checking of pundits can improve, expand, and further help ensure an informed electorate.
FactCheck.org, November 18, 2016. Eight principles that can be used to determine the legitimacy of a published source of information. The description of each principle includes an example of fake news that was revealed because it violated the principle. A very nicely written, informative article.
Part III – Fact Checking Websites
A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players. Topics for fact checking are selected by the staff. There is a useful ‘Search’ link that allows the user to find information about topics of interest to her/him. Importantly, the “Ask a Question’ link permits the user to submit a question about the veracity of a claim and/or a question about a scientific issue.
The site which has been referenced by numerous news media was created to debunk or confirm widely spread urban legends. Snopes also investigates Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of unknown or questionable origin. Although fact-checking in general is often accused by critics as the product of a left-wing conspiracy, research has shown Snopes coverage to be free of bias. “Search for Keywords or URLs” brings you to a list of news items about the topic that you are searching (e.g., Paul Ryan).
See New York Times, December 26, 2016, Pp. B1, B4. Bigger Fact Checking Role for Snopes Brings More Attacks.
USAFacts is a data-driven portrait of the American population, government finances, and government’s impact on society. It claims to be a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative that has no political agenda or commercial motive. Its findings rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources, and it partners with three academic institutions to help keep data accurate and unbiased. Not always easy to locate the specific data in which you are interested.
PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials, candidates, leaders of political parties and political activists at all levels of government. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times. The site uses a six-point rating scale, the Truth-o-meter, to reflect the relative accuracy of a statement (e.g., ‘True’ → ‘Pants on Fire’). The website’s staff selects the statements that are checked for accuracy. One can request PolitiFact to check the accuracy of a statement of personal interest.
Part IV – Adult Instructional Material Dealing with Media Literacy
ALA Webinar that addresses the rise of fake news, particularly those information behaviors that perpetuate its spread. Brief treatment of ways to identify fake news. The material is presented in a formal academic style. Probably not suited to younger library patrons. To watch the presentation, scroll down to “How to Register” and click on “Watch the recording” link. The recording must be opened in the Adobe Connect Add-In (available to upload from the site).
- YouTube Tutorials for Evaluating Web Sites
Short presentations on sets of standards for determining the credibility of Websites.
- Evaluating Web Sites
- Evaluating Web Pages
Part V – Sources for Media Literacy Instruction in Schools
- American Society of News Editors
The American Society of News Editors is a membership organization for editors, producers or directors in charge of journalistic organizations or departments, deans or faculty at university journalism. This website contains an archive of programs and efforts that were administered by ASNE’s Youth Journalism Initiative to help students learn why news matters and acquire the skills needed to succeed as 21st-century citizens. Suggest that you open the School Journalism.org link and then explore the ‘NEWS & MEDIA LITERACY’ link.
The News Literacy Project (NLP) is a nonpartisan national education nonprofit that receives financial support from several major foundations (e.g., Rockefeller Foundation) and that works with educators and journalists to teach middle school and high school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age. NLP’s goal is to see news literacy embedded in the American educational experience as an essential skill, giving every student an appreciation of credible journalism and the skills to be an active participant in a robust democracy.
- Ten questions for Fake News Detection – Questions used to determine the likelihood that a piece of information is fake news.
- CheckologyTM e-learning platform - This set of highly engaging digital lessons and educational resources is a promising way to learn about social media and digital citizenship. The platform features 10 core lessons that give students a foundation in news literacy, including a focus on the role of the First Amendment and watchdog journalism in a democracy, as well as skills and concepts that help students determine how to know what to believe when encountering news and other information. The “freemium” model gives educators basic access at no cost, allowing them to deliver the lessons in a one-to-many format.
Located at Stony Brook University, the Center is committed to teaching students how to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports and news sources.
The Center also is at work developing innovative curriculum materials for high schools and the general public through the Digital Resource Center, funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Course materials which have been developed with extensive use in college classrooms may be examined by opening the link entitled “The 14 Lessons.”
Part VI – Articles Written for Students
Science News for Students, September 21, 2017. An essay that instructs students to “question everything” and “figure out who to trust.” Contains a glossary (titled “Power Words) of terms associated with STEM subjects.
Science News for Students, September 22, 2017. Contains teaching tips and tools, and media literacy resources. https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/era-fake-news-students-must-act-journalists
Part VII - University Library Sites Designed for Students
A student-focused research guide called “Fake or Fact.” Busy Website containing many links to interesting facts, articles, and teaching points dealing with the prevalence and detection of fake news.
In just 45 minutes, Tutorial for Information Power (TIP) will teach you how to think strategically about information and the processes of: Investigating a topic; Searching for information; Finding the information in the library; Evaluating the quality of information (the segment most closely aligned with media literacy); Using the information in papers, speeches, or projects. Begin the tutorial by selecting the investigating button. Appropriate program for high school students.
A nice visual guide containing information to assist identifying and avoiding fake news. Make sure that you open the ‘Resources,’ ‘Let’s Check a Claim,’ and ‘Check Your Own Claim’ links on the home page.
Part VIII - Miscellaneous Resources
- Smart Internet Surfing: Evaluating Websites and Advertising
This is a fun, fascinating book that will educate and help young students (recommended for ages 8 – 12) learn about safe web searching. It provides a description of the internet and offers prescriptions for safely working with and evaluating sites. The back of the book contains an index, a glossary, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore. The book is available in the Children’s room.
This site provides a worksheet that is useful for determining the legitimacy of a Website. Evaluating News: Good, Bad, Totally Fake? contains sets of questions that address the validity of the information on a Website and assess whether bias is present in the reporting. A useful tool for a student that intends to use the information on a particular Website as the centerpiece of a school assignment.
A short video guide of the advice we detailed in FactCheck.org’s report “How to Spot Fake News.”