Guide helps listeners and viewers separate fact from fiction in news coverage

Mar 10, 2017 | News

By: Hailey DeWitt Williams

The Toronto Public Library has released a guide on how to spot fake news.

The guide starts by defining fake news as “fabricated content designed to fool readers” while putting emphasis on the role of click-baiting and deceptive content made to go viral.

Journalist Siobhan Moore says she hopes this guide will help inform people on how to be discerning viewers, and listeners.

“It helps educate the public on how they can properly inform themselves, how to be conscious of the clickbait and all the information that they’re flooded with everyday,” says Moore who also teaches journalism at Humber College.

Social media enables fake news to spread fast throughout a grand audience. A ‘who, what, where, when, why’ detailed explanation of how to spot and understand fake news is also included.

The guide provides a list of websites, books, and videos that can be used as tools to spot fake news, detect unreliable news sources, and learn to distinguish between good and bad information.

“A lot of people access news and information through the public library system,” says Dan Rowe, program coordinator of Bachelor of Journalism at Humber College. “So librarians have a really important role to play in the whole process of helping people to figure out what is a good source and what is not a good source.”

Rowe believes people already think critically about what they see in the media all the time.

“I think most news consumers do have a really good sense of what is good information and what is more dubious information,” says Rowe. Adding that any tools out there aimed to help people, especially young people or people who might be new to things like social media, can be very useful.

Adam Weissengruber, Systems Support Library Technician at Humber College, says the guide is similar to what the library has been doing for many years.

“We’ve always been teaching how people can evaluate websites in general. It’s checking the URL, who has the qualifications, who is writing it, checking for the credibility of the author, the authority, where do they come from,” says Weissengruber.

Weissengruber believes it’s going to be a tough battle to get people to question what they read online. News comes from so many directions it gets overwhelming for most people. It can get dangerous when people don’t question credibility and fake truths end up spreading around the world with the click of a button.

Moore says fake news information has been around since the beginning of the internet, it’s become more apparent now because it’s more discussed than ever.

“Journalists have always struggled with educating the public on what a journalist is supposed to do,” says Moore.

Moore says it’s in our human nature to have enough respect for ourselves and our intellect that we want to think critically about what we see in the media.