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07/21/2017

Worthington Libraries combats ‘fake news’

Fake News InfographicEditor's Note: Newspapers should consider talking with local libraries about hosting similar programs. In addition, a PDF of the "Don't Fall for Fake News" infographic can be downloaded here.

By Jason Sanford, Manager of Communications and Content

While journalists have long battled the spread of “fake news,” another group dedicated to facts and reliable information librarians is also taking aim at this growing disinformation trend.

Worthington Libraries recently hosted two events aimed at helping the public identify reliable news sources. The library system also created a useful infographic to help people evaluate sources of information and learn which sources might not be trustworthy.

Coleman Mahler, an adult services librarian with Worthington Libraries, said they started working on this program after patrons raised concerns around the prevalence of fake news. “We’ve had a lot of questions about fake news,” Mahler said. “Many patrons are concerned about it, in part because the amount of information out there can be very overwhelming for people.”

Mahler said one reason the library is focusing on fake news is because of the digital divide in the country and the rising popularity of “echo chambers,” places online or on social media where people go to have their views validated or listened to. Mahler said trying to help people find trusted news sources and learn how to evaluate those sources isn’t a partisan issue because everyone benefits from accurate information.

In addition to the infographic, which was created by lead librarian Shanley Pease and graphic designer Stacy Clark, Worthington Libraries also recently hosted two sessions for the public on fake news. The first was titled “Who Can You Trust?” and covered how information is disseminated and how people can analyze the reliability of news sources. The second session was a panel discussion on fake news with local media experts including Darrel Rowland, public-affairs editor at The Columbus Dispatch, and Gerald Kosicki, a communications professor at The Ohio State University.

“So far the reaction to our program been overwhelmingly positive,” Mahler said. “Discussing fake news also fits perfectly with our mission statement, which is to connect people to a world of ideas.”