Campus librarian authors guide on distinguishing fake news

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In light of the recent spread of “fake news” websites, a campus librarian wrote a guide on how to distinguish fake news from real news.

Corliss Lee, the campus librarian who authored the guide, last updated it Monday on the campus library website. The guide provides a checklist on how to identify a fake news story and outlines the parameters that people should consider while reading articles, including checking the authority of the author, the sources cited and the publication.

Lee emphasized the importance of evaluating the tone of an article. She stated that people should proceed with caution when an article appears to be inflammatory, since real news articles maintain neutrality.

Lee said she wrote the guide because she believed that the rise of fake news is an critical issue. She added that it was “very important” for librarians, students and the general public to evaluate news sources to find authentic information.

“People don’t trust the media, or anything, anymore,” Lee said. “We all consume media, but do we know how to evaluate what we are doing and seeing?”

Many campus professors and students shared Lee’s opinions, adding that they were also concerned about the growing prevalence of fake news.

Alan Mutter, a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, proposed tips similar to the ones Lee discussed in her guide. Mutter, however, presented his recommendations in the context of social media, explaining that websites, such as Facebook, play a significant role in distributing deceptively credible news sources.

“Facebook historically does not have a good way of filtering out information,” Mutter said.

Some professors and students, however, attributed the popularization of fake news to politics.

“People naturally gravitate to things that confirm what they already believe,” said Brian Krans, a first-year graduate student at the J-School. “Especially when it comes to politics, they tend to seek out and distribute information to prove their point.”

Adam Hochschild, a lecturer at the J-School and a journalist, cited examples of past presidents who used news sources to circulate their agendas, including George W. Bush, who Hochschild alleged had attempted to convince the public that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

According to Hochschild, President Donald Trump is also a proponent of less-than-credible news sources. Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, formerly served as the executive chair of Breitbart News, the controversial far-right news website. And Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy theory-spreading website, secured a seat in the White House press briefing room.

Hochschild added that people should be “skeptical” when consuming information, because not everything comes from a trustworthy source.

“Not everything that appears in print, or on a TV screen, or in a book, is true,” Hochschild said in an email. “We have to be educated, skeptical, critical consumers of media.”

Contact Ishira Shrivatsa and Ambika Jaykrishna at [email protected].