Pulaski County Library District Director Emily Slama offers advice on how to spot fake news.

Here at the Pulaski County Library District, our mission statement is “Expanding community enrichment through education, information, inspiration, and recreation”.  In today’s column, I want to address some of the education and information aspects of the Library’s mission.
We have all heard the term “Fake News”, right?  But what exactly is it?  How do we know how to spot it?  How big of a problem is it, actually?  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will tell you what I know.  In its relatively short existence, the term fake news has evolved, shifted, morphed.  
There are many instances of fake news creators.  That is, people who publish “News” stories that are simply fiction.  These stories get shared on social media, often going viral.  So, “Fake News” that is actually fake, untrue, untethered to reality in any way other than that the main characters usually do exist.
In its current iteration, fake news has come to mean slanted news.  So, when folks whose personal beliefs slant right or left want to critique a news organization whose beliefs slant the other direction, they level accusations of “Fake News”.  The events in the stories do happen, but they are filtered through a point of view.
What does all this have to do with the library?  As librarians, we can help suss out credible, reliable resources.  Last week, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) released a document that is very helpful in identifying credible sources.  Their guidelines are:
Consider the source, or investigate the organization beyond the story you’re reading,
Read Beyond, or don’t just stop at the sensational headline, actually read through the story,
Check the Author, see if s/he has published other stories and investigate their content,  
Supporting Sources, if additional links are provided in the article, check them out for credibility, too,
Check the Date, old stories often contain information that is no longer accurate or pertinent to the situation it purports,
Is it a joke or satire,
Check your biases, and
Ask an Expert.  
These are great guidelines, and the IFLA document will be available on our library website and at each library location as a reminder.
I hope you’ve found this (somewhat lengthy) explanation and guidelines for spotting fake news helpful.  And remember: When in doubt, ask a librarian!
IFLA “How to Spot Fake News” infographic: http://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174
For more information about your Pulaski County Library District, please visit us on the web at www.pulaskicounty.lib.mo.us.