All the News That’s Fit to Read

My wife, Suffield Librarian Jackie Hemond has shared the following column.  She details a number of handy tips for judging the veracity of news sources.  She writes:

fake-newsWhere do you get your news from? Increasingly, it is hard to figure out what is a truth, a lie or something in-between. Take for instance this story, which I heard a few weeks ago. Two men on a Delta flight were kicked off the plane because one man was speaking Arabic to his mother on his cellphone. ABC, CNN and Yahoo all carried the story. But it wasn’t true. Not this particular instance anyway. The real truth is that a known YouTube prankster faked the story in a video which looked like it really happened. Yes, he was escorted off the plane, but only because he was shouting to his friend and disturbing his fellow passengers. Because his video went viral, he amassed a fortune in ad money.

Librarians are in the forefront In the fight against fake news. Most librarians have helped students sort fact from fiction in research papers. Today, they are pointing out fake news on the daily news feeds. And I am stepping up. Here is a short course for judging the veracity of online information:

Pay attention to the domain name and URL. Abcnews.com is legitimate. Abcnews.com.co is not.

Check for exaggeration in the headline and the text.

Google the quotes, writers, editors or anyone listed on the site or in the “About Us” section

Are other major news sources carrying the story?

Is the website badly designed?

These tips are quick indicators that the news you think is news, isn’t. Some online sources can also help. Educators and students can navigate through the maze of information and disinformation by using the News Literacy Project (http://www.thenewsliteracyproject.org). Allsides (http://www.allsides.com) shows the bias of a story from all points of view – the right, the left and the center. Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, provides, on her website, an extensive list of biased, unreliable and fake websites which flourish on the internet.

So, is the following news story real?

A judge in Virginia sentenced five teenagers to read 35 books, watch 14 films, visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., as well as the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, write book reports and a research paper. The five are charged with writing offensive, racist graffiti on a recently renovated historic black school, which opened in 1892. All 35 books on the list tackle issues of racism, gender equality, religion and war. Included among the list of movies and books are: 12 Years a Slave, The Crucible, The Help, My Name is Asher Lev, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Kite Runner. The judge’s sentence was inspired by her librarian mother when the judge was a child growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico.

It’s the truth, so help me God.

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