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Misleading information published as news is not new to the 21st century. In the late 19th century we called it "yellow journalism," and its practitioners used sensational headlines and outright fraudulent stories to increase sales. Today, with increasing reliance on both digital news outlets and social media for news, sifting through the messages for non-biased sources requires attention, and possibly reviewing multiple sources--including seeking out a reliable original source. This guide covers:
- tips from ALA and our member libraries for assessing the validity of information, whether a news item or a web page,
- professional references to information literacy standards and tools, and
- style guides for citing sources.
ALA Toolkits and Programming
Fake News: A Library Resource Round-Up
Selection of library resources compiled for Programming Librarian
Introduction to Critical Information Literacy: Promoting Social Justice through Librarianship eCourse
Asynchronous eCourse beginning Monday, April 10, 2017 and continuing for 5 weeks, facilitated by Dawn Stahura. (fee)
Post-Truth: Fake News and a New Era of Information Literacy
Webinar, February 22, 2017, from the ALA Public Programs Office to learn about the rise of fake news and to explore methods to help library patrons identify fake news. Webinar slides available.
Using Media Literacy to Stop the Fake News Cycle
Webinar, Feb. 16, 2017, to teach youth librarians to use simple media literacy concepts and online tools to help young people decode, deconstruct and talk back to harmful and misleading news stories. (Archived recording available.)
Toolkits and Guides from the Field
Developed by the ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services to help keep current events in conversation with libraries' ongoing work in and commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Civility & Diversity
Toolkit from the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services
Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change
Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Models for Change is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) and National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). It seeks to introduce libraries to various dialogue and deliberation approaches, enabling libraries to foster conversation and lead change in their communities.
Libraries Transforming Communities: "Turning Outward" Resources for Libraries
Tools designed to help libraries strengthen their role as community leaders and bring about positive change in their communities.
PLA Post-Election Resources
Public Library Association resources to help its members to serve their communities by creating safe places for difficult conversations.
Fact Checking Sites
FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.
Debunks email and social media hoaxes, thwarts Internet scammers, combats spam, and educates web users about email, social media, and Internet security issues.
A fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida, as is PunditFact, a site devoted to fact-checking pundits.
A project of the Tampa Bay Times and the Poynter Institute, dedicated to checking the accuracy of claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers, political analysts, the hosts and guests of talk shows, and other members of the media.
The snopes.com website was founded by David Mikkelson, who lives and works in the Los Angeles area. What he began in 1995 as an expression of his interest in researching urban legends has since grown into what is widely regarded by folklorists, journalists, and laypersons alike as one of the World Wide Web's essential resources.
Get the truth about rumors, inspirational stories, virus warnings, hoaxes, scams, humorous tales, pleas for help, urban legends, prayer requests, calls to action, and other forwarded emails.
Summary of tips
- Consider the source. Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and its contact info.
- Read past the headline. Headlines can be outrageous in effort to get clicks. Go beyond headlines.
- Assess the credibility of the author. Do a quick Google search on the author. What is their expertise? What organization do they represent?
- Look at the links and sources supporting the article. Click those links. Determine if the subsequent information supports the story. Consider the reliability of the sources.
- Check the date.
- Consider that the item might be satire. If it seems too outlandish, it might be satire. Do some quick research on the site and author to find out.
- Consider that it might be promotional. Is the purpose of the site to sell a product?
- Check your biases.
- Search other news outlets to see if the news is widely reported.