As has come to the attention of national conversation, discerning what is real or fake in mainstream news sources and social media has become a difficult task. In an effort to encourage students’ information literacy, the Fordham Libraries have created a “Fake News” research guide, now accessible through the main website.
The goal, Walsh Library Digital Humanities and Reference Librarian Tierney Gleason said, is “to encourage members of the Fordham community and beyond to think critically about what they are reading and sharing online…[and it enables librarians to] remind the campus communities that discrediting fake news information is both a civic responsibility and an issue of academic integrity.”
Director of Libraries Linda LoSchiavo said over email that she came up with the idea of the guide, and it was set as a plan in fall 2016. “A major component of [information literacy] is teaching students to assess the sources that they discover and use for their research,” she said.
“When libraries contained only print materials, this was a much easier job, as publishing standards and requirements made it difficult to disseminate information independently and without review,” she explained. “But as we know, the Internet exploded that model…One search term and one click can produce tens of thousands of results.” She said that the guide would give students a basic foundation of skills they could use to determine what is legitimate and what is “baseless or inaccurate.”
A group of librarians from both Walsh and Quinn libraries set to developing the guide, coming from both the Reference and Technical Services departments. “I asked them to begin with the basics of information literacy, and to think about how students sometimes believe things to be facts because ‘someone said’ it, or ‘I saw it on a website,’” LoSchiavo said.
After several iterations the final product offers eight sections covering topics from social media to statistics and satirical news, in addition to identifying reputable journalism.
“The subjects were whittled down to those felt to be the most relevant and useful to the Fordham community,” said Quinn Library Instructional Services and Reference Librarian Kindra Becker-Redd.
Walsh Library Assessment and Reference Librarian Jeannie Hoag said, “Each news article or social media post you’ll come across will be unique, so the best way to combat the spread of fake news is to develop good information literacy skills and make using them a habit. Applying that knowledge in your daily life is part of your responsibility as a college-educated adult.”
Since the guide was uploaded, the Libraries staff has received inquiries from other university librarians who want to use it in their own schools. They are also developing a video to go with it, to come later in the semester.