Advertisement

Finksburg librarian can help fact check your media diet

Finksburg librarian can help fact check your media diet
Melanie Fitz with the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library recently held her first Are You For Real? Fact Checking 101 program. “We cover what is fact and fiction, talk a little bit about digital literacy and talk a little bit about evaluating resources."

Which of the following is true?

A year on Mars is 687 Earth Days.

Advertisement

Ford makes the best trucks.

2 + 2 = 5.

As Melanie Fitz will readily explain, the first is fact, the second an opinion and the third — although a quote from George Orwell's "1984" — is absolutely misinformation.

On Tuesday evening, Fitz, a children's librarian with the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library, held her first Are You For Real? Fact Checking 101 program there.

"We cover what is fact and fiction, talk a little bit about digital literacy and talk a little bit about evaluating resources," she said.

In today's media-scape, this means more than being able to identify what is a news piece and what is an opinion column. Fitz noted that in the wake of flooding in Houston due to Tropical Storm Harvey, there had been doctored images circulating on social media that appeared to show sharks swimming in the streets or water up to the wings of aircraft at one of Houston's airports.

Those images have now been debunked as hoaxes, but could have impacted people's real-world decision making on when or how to evacuate or help those evacuating.

"This the importance of evaluating your resources, especially when major news items are hitting like we have with Harvey," she said. "There will be a lot of news around that, make sure you are looking at your sources and not just looking at what is being tossed out there."

And serving as a place for information to be tossed out there is just what social media platforms, such as Twitter, are so good at, Fitz said.

"Social media allows people to create and post content easily, but it doesn't to require any quality control or monitoring content accuracy," she said. "Its spread of information is difficult if not impossible to stop."

What can you do? Fitz said one simple thing is to actually read the entire article and not just the headline, and to be wary of "click-bait" where a headline does not describe what you read in the article.

When news is breaking, consistency across sources is also important, according to Fitz.

"If one person is saying the water is up to the bottom of the planes in Houston, and everyone else is saying the airport is not affected, maybe somebody has got bad information," she said.

And then there is the CRAAP test — Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose, to be exact — a system for evaluating information developed by California State University at Chico.

Advertisement

Currency, Fitz said, is simply how recent the news is; yesterday's news on a developing situation may no longer be accurate or relevant. Relevance then, may be related to currency, she said, or might affect students when researching a term paper — CRAAP works well for students as well as news consumers.

Authority is about who is giving you information and how much you trust them, Fitz said, whether it's a tweet with a photoshopped image of an airport or story about investing.

"Most people are not truly neutral and most organizations are not going to manage to come off that way either," she said. Even the library has an agenda: We would like you to learn things."

Accuracy, Fitz said, refers to the quality of the evidence provided for a claim, while purpose connects back to authority: Is the author or source trying to convince you of something?

"Are they connected to the information? If someone is telling you that Ford has the best trucks, do they have stock in Ford? Do they sell Ford trucks for a living?" she said. "This may influence the quality of the information you are getting."

People looking for more detail on how to parse the news they read, Fitz said, can visit the Enoch Pratt Free Library's online guide, "Fake News: How to spot it."

And they can come to Fitz's next presentation, although the date has yet to be determined. People are encouraged to call in and request she run the program again soon, or to simply ask a question about their information diet and how it could be better.

"There's a lot of information available, and if they don't learn from somewhere else how to sift through it, they will either flounder or find somebody who can help them work through it," Fitz said. "Librarians have always been there to help sort data and make sure you can find the info you want. That will probably always be a thing we do."



jon.kelvey@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-3317

twitter.com/CCT_Health

Advertisement
Advertisement