Category Archives: Libraries & Media

Fake News

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We live in a digital age of information. At the click of a button we have access to thousands, if not millions, of resources online. But can we trust all of this information? Unfortunately, no. For example, did you know the website MartinLutherKing.org is hosted by Stormfront, a white supremacist organization?

There has been an increase (perhaps explosion or pandemic) in recent years of fake news. But what is fake news? Fake news can be described as propaganda, a hoax, and/or misinformation that is purposely spread and published as real news – often using social media – with the intent to mislead for political or financial gains. Fake news will often utilize eye-catching headlines and images to increase sharing and views.

Categories of Fake News

There are a few different ways to categorize it, but generally fake news can be put into these categories:

  • False/ deceptive
    • Stories that are completely made up, no truth to them whatsoever (like the story about Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump for President)
    • Deliberately fabricated news that is intended to mislead or make money through clicks
    • Entirely fake news websites or “imposter sites” that are designed to look like a real/ credible website (like abcnews.com.co)
  • Satire/ parody/ jokes
    • Stories are purposefully fake with no intention to cause harm, but has the potential to fool people
    • Satire news, like content from The Onion, seeks to entertain and be humorous rather than mislead, but people can misinterpret the content as real
  • Slanted/ biased
    • Stories that contain truthful elements but they are selectively chosen (or omitted) to serve an agenda (like gaining headlines)
    • Certain content from Fox News, MSNBC, and others could fall under this category
  • Misleading
  • Manipulated
    • Content or imagery that is altered falls under this category
    • “Doctored” or “Photoshopped” images would also be included (like some of the 2012 viral photos from Hurricane Sandy)

The Very Brief History of Fake News

Fake news is nothing new. It has been around for many years. A trip to your local grocery or convenience store’s checkout lane will reveal a plethora of tabloids containing fictional or less than reputable information, often about celebrities; and these tabloids have been in publication for many years (some of which include the National Enquirer, National Examiner, New York Post, Globe, and Daily Mail). A 2017 NPR article explains that long before fake news, there were staged photos. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, tall-tale postcards emerged in the early 1900s with larger-than-life images of crops and animals, thanks to clever photography and darkroom tricks. Yellow journalism was a term coined in the 1890s to describe sensational news that is not well-researched but instead strives to be eye-catching to sell more newspapers.

Social Media (Fuel to the Fake News Flame)

If fake news is nothing new, why is at the forefront of current issues plaguing society? Insert social media.

Social media usage has exploded in the last several years. It has become part of everyday life. In fact, a 2016 survey from the Pew Research Center indicates that 62% of adults get their news from social media. This number is up from 49% in 2012. Social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., have become one stop shops for sharing content, interacting with others, and, you guessed it, getting news.

Sharing content on social media has never been easier. One or two clicks is all it takes. But did you take the time to read more than just the headline before you liked, commented, or shared? Is the source reputable? Unfortunately, fake news outlets use social media to their advantage because the before mentioned questions go unanswered, it is easy for them to share things too, they are able to reach a wide audience, and their headlines or images draw people in (also referred to as clickbait).

With so much information present on social media and the sharing of it, it can be easy to skim something and not realize it might be fake. People do not always take the time to fact check something before sharing or commenting.

How to Spot Fake News

There are a few quick and easy things you can look for to spot fake news. FactCheck.org has some great advice on how to spot fake news:

  • Consider the source
  • Read beyond the headline
  • Check the author
  • Check the supporting sources
  • Check the date
  • Is it a joke?
  • Check your biases
  • Ask the experts

It is easy to do a couple quick checks to identify fake or real news. But when in doubt, ask the experts – like librarians! Libraries are a trusted source of information. Utilizing librarians, library resources, and library databases is a great way of finding credible sources and information, and not to mention avoiding the possibility of running into fake news. Click here to explore the reliable databases available through the State Library.

Many libraries across the country are already working to combat the fake news problem. For example, many libraries are creating guides and resources.

The Harvard Library has created a guide that lists 5 ways to spot fake news:

  • Consider the source
  • Check the URL
  • Look for visual clues
  • Get a second opinion
  • Put your browser to work

Universities and schools are also fighting back against fake news. Librarians have partnered with the University of Michigan to offer a class on fake news called “Fake News, Lies, and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact from Fiction.”

Other things to look for to spot fake news:

  • ALL CAPS
  • Advertisements: excessive pop-ups, banners, etc.
  • Assess grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Use a reverse image search (like TinEye)
  • If you’re not sure it’s true, then don’t share or comment!

Preventing Fake News

While it is almost impossible to prevent fake news, we can, however, strive to prevent its spread.

  • Before sharing, commenting, or liking, it is paramount that you read past the title of the article.
  • Follow the steps to determine fake news and see if there are any red flags.
  • Put the article or source to the test and use a fact checking website.
  • Use the “Report” option on social media to flag fake news. Facebook and Twitter have options to flag posts that are spam, harmful, or inappropriate. Click the little downward arrow at the upper right of the post to report it.
  • When in doubt, chicken out. If you are not sure if the article is true or the source is reliable, then don’t share, like, comment, etc.

There is a lot of information out there, and that is unlikely to change. As more things become accessible online, we have to remain vigilant of what is credible and what is not. It is up to us to be responsible enough to decipher what is real and what it fake. Take advantage of the simple advice, the easy credibility checks, and the many resources at your disposal to win the war on fake news.

Resources

Handouts:

Fact Checking Websites:

Identifying the Source:

LibGuides:

Videos:

Additional Resources:

Examples of Fake News:

  • Fargo Man Arrested for Clearing Snow with Flamethrower
    • Source: FM Observer (clicking on their About page will reveal this message: “FM Observer provides farcical/satirical news and entertainment for the Fargo-Moorhead and surrounding area, as well as nationally. We are the greatest website you will ever visit in your entire human existence.”)
    • It is no secret that North Dakota can get a lot of snow, so something like this can easily catch someone’s interested because we all get sick of snow at some point and likely consider doing this to our snowbanks. This fake news article coincidentally resurfaces on social media each winter since it was first published in 2013.
    • Fact checking website Snopes has confirmed that this story is indeed FALSE.
    • Fake News category: Satire/ parody/ jokes
  • Vince Gilligan Announces Breaking Bad Season 6… (and this story also appeared on Facebook: Breaking Bad season 6 announced!!!) WARNING: these articles, although fake, do contain some spoilers about Breaking Bad.
    • Source: NBC? At first glance, it appears as though this article comes from NBC News. Look carefully at the URL. You’ll notice that it says “nbc.com.co”. Anytime “.co” is added to the end of a URL, you need to be suspicious of this news source and its content (this is an indicator that this source is not reliable). Also note that the official NBC logo is missing.
    • After 5 seasons, Breaking Bad aired its last episode in 2013. The show generated a large fan base, so it makes sense that people would get excited about seeing an article like this.
    • Fact checking website Snopes has confirmed that this story is indeed FALSE.
    • Fake News category: False/ deceptive
  • The Simpsons predicted the score of Super Bowl 51
    • You may have seen an image floating around on social media after the 2017 Super Bowl of The Simpsons. In the image (an example of which can be viewed here) the Atlanta Falcons appear to lose to the New England Patriots by a score of 28 to 34. It’s a miracle! …or it’s fake.
    • In the episode (“The Town” – season 28, episode 3), which aired in October 2016, the actual final score of the game is 23 to 21, and the teams are Springfield and Boston (image can be viewed here).
    • Clever photo editing was used to alter the image from The Simpsons episode.
    • Fact checking website Snopes has confirmed that this story is indeed FALSE.
    • Fake News category: Manipulated
  • Even NPR pulled a fast one on us: Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore? (and also on Facebook: What has become of our brains?)
    • Source: NPR (very reliable – except when they pull April Fools’ Day pranks)
    • NPR basically conducted an experiment with this April Fools’ Day article. They wanted to see how people would react. If you click on the article and read its content, it says “If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this ‘story’.” If you look at the Facebook comments, you can tell many people only looked at the title of this article.
    • Fake News category: Satire/ parody/ jokes

Additional Reading:

Short Notes…

In addition to gLifeLearningetting credit from traditional college programs, many institutions are now giving credit for what you have experienced and learned in life: Competency-Based Education.


Ebooks

Contrary to popular belief, publishers are not hurt by ebook sales. Check out this compilation of ebook profit margins  by author, Hugh C. Howey.

Importance of Library Services to Younger Americans

The Pew Research Center surveyed over 6,000 Americans ages 16 and over. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish from July to September, 2013. The chart indicates the percentage who say these library services are “very important” to them.

Importance of Library Services by Age and %

LibServices

For the complete September 2014 Pew Research report, see Younger Americans and Public Libraries.

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams

Self-Publishing is now Legit

PublishingJust 5 or 6 years ago, printing your own book through a “vanity press” was considered to be the last act of a no-talent author. If legitimate publishers would not accept your book, you must be a failure. Most library acquisition departments did not purchase a vanity press book, unless it was a town or church history.

Today, the stigma associated with self-publishing is mostly gone. Many best-sellers are self-published titles whose authors are not interested in signing with traditional publishers. Now, writers can digitally format their own books, or they can deal with online publishers like Amazon, Smashwords, or Kobo. Self-published authors are able to keep 60%-85% of e-books sales. Traditional publishers keep about 85% of net proceeds.

Traditional publishers formerly determined good from bad writing. Good writing was published and bad writing was discarded. Publishers covered the costs of promotion, printing, and distribution. Today, good writing is determined by readers through online reviews and e-book sales.

The real questions are: Who bests determines good from bad writing? Do readers need publishers to find good books? Do traditional publishing houses have too much power? Who should get the biggest piece of the pie, the author or the publisher? I think the reader ultimately determines whether or not a book has value. The real problem is navigating through all the junk to get to the good stuff.

“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.”  – Arthur C. Clarke

Social Media Connections

Many libraries use social media as a way to connect with their patrons these days, but who do you connect with as a library? The database vendors all have several social media channels you can use to connect with them and learn more about services they can provide for your patrons. Check out the links below for ideas you can use in your library.

Ancestry
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube
Blog

BritannicaBritannica
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube
Blog Continue reading

Surveys, Valuable and Annoying

SurveyThe other morning National Public Radio had a story about customer surveys, which seem to be everywhere. In the library world, as well most other worlds (business, education, government, sports, etc.) surveys are extensively used to find out why people do what they do, and what they want.

On one hand, surveys have value. We even have a book club survey posted on our “Field Notes” blog. But on the other hand, surveys can be one of the banes of modern society. Occasionally I will fill out a survey, if it isn’t too long and if it relates to my experience. I’ve created surveys. Most times though when a survey pops up on a webpage, I close it or say, “No thanks.”

Online surveys are everywhere because they are inexpensive, immediate, easy to create, and have value for discerning what customers are thinking. Institutions and companies find surveys to be worth the risk of annoyance. So, if you see value in a survey, take it.

“Add a few drops of venom to a half truth and you have an absolute truth.” — Eric Hoffer

Cellular Telephone and Broadband Internet service Essential to Rural Youth

CellPhoneThe 2013 Rural Youth Telecommunications Survey was conducted between January and April. The survey respondents were 60% female, and nearly 75% were 19 years old or younger. More than 90% have an Internet connection in their home.

Rural youth see their cell phones as much more than a means of voice communications and are intrinsically attached to them. They also use their cell phones for texting, taking pictures, shopping, surfing the Web, social networking, playing games, downloading music, watching videos, or homework. The cell phone is an expression of lifestyle and an extension of themselves.

Mobile cell service and broadband Internet are critical to today’s youth; they do not want to be shackled to a fixed location to access services. The majority of survey respondents indicated that they will only live where cellular telephone and broadband Internet are available. Libraries and businesses take note: design your websites, products, and services to be accessible to a mobile generation.

“Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a moron.” – George Carlin

 

Old Journals as Insulation

Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia had a problem. They had about 50,000 bound volumes of academic journals to store and were running out of space. Most universities are confronted with this problem. Some rent off-campus storage, others attempt to recycle. However, recycling poses problems; covers have to be removed because the glues and binding compounds jam the mechanical shredders.

David Cameron heard about the problem and saw a possible solution. David is a builder and his Blockhouse School Project needed a way to insulate the school to save heating money. The project is transforming an old schoolhouse into a community center. Cameron realized he could solve two problems by using the journals as insulation. Basically, he and his helpers stacked a wall of books and covered them with earth plaster (a mixture of clay, sand, and straw).

Discards

The Blockhouse School illustrates one successful way to use old books and journals, but the storage of bound journals is still an issue that many universities must confront.

[Adapted from: Asgarian, R. (2013). Library Discards Find New Life as Insulation. Library Journal, 138(21), 17.]

“People are like bicycles. They can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

 

Are Public Libraries Valued?

A recent Pew Research Center study, How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities, tries to answer this question. 90% of Americans, age 16 and above, said that libraries are very important to their communities and that the closing of their local public library would have a negative impact.

PubLib

 “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” – Lena Horne

School Librarians are Tech Leaders

School Library Journal conducted a survey in 2013 which illustrated that librarians are technology leaders in their schools and districts. The results have been captured in a graphic (PDF) which is freely available to use, print, or post. Check it out.

LibTechLeader

“Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” – Jean-Paul Sartre