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I’m a librarian and here’s what we need to get clear about ‘fake news’

Barrie Mooney

I’m a college librarian by day and lately there has been lots of talk in my library world about bias in the news.

From this Pew Report Survey, which was conducted in Feb/March of 2016, it was found that only 22% of American trust their local news and 18% have trust in national news organizations; Close to 75% think news organizations are biased. So, I know you feel me friends. What news is real?

This is what I do. This is what I teach college students to do. I just want to help you find facts — the real news. So if you do too, I just thought we should talk.

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We can agree almost uniformly that great news sources that have very little bias or manipulation whether you are standing left or right of center are: Wall Street Journal, BBC, and The Economist. In the middle, but not specifically agreed upon are: Christian Science Monitor, Associated Press, C-Span, Polifact, USA Today, and online, the Skimm.

Not all of these are super-smart academic, hard to read papers. Some are given for free in your hotel, at the newsstand or are free online. Great news is still a possibility no matter what the recent headlines may tell you.

I think in light of trying to walk the line of “just the facts” please, I am leaning toward papers that do just that. I don’t want to work so hard every time I pick up the paper just to get my facts about what is happening in the world.

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So many news outlets lean left or right, and that is fine as long as you realize that you are reading articles from a particular stance. And there are some that are sort of left or right, some that are far left or right, some that are satire, and some that are just bat-$@ crazy. Like, I don’t believe in science crazy. Sorry if that is you.

Let’s be careful not to confuse “fake” information with bias. Fake is fake. Bias is leading, but often based in truth. With biased news, perhaps accurate information has been used in the wrong context or manipulated to suit the message, however, this doesn’t make it “fake.” We need to stop calling news we don’t agree with “fake.” And whether something is fake news depends on what type of news it is supposed to be. Is it supposed to sway you in one direction? Is it supposed to be satire or comedy (like the truthiness of Stephen Colbert)?

No matter where you stand, let’s just back up and actually take our news and decide what it is: A lie? Truth? Or somewhere in between? And then let’s talk to our kids, because just between you and me and the rest of higher education… they don’t really know this. They will retweet and tumbl and share what they agree with and then use it in their papers. Facebook and social media is where most young people get their news from, and it isn’t on the accepted list for “real news” folks. Let’s clarify for them what fake news might mean. It is worth a discussion.

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