In an age where information inundates us constantly and access to thousands of news sources is readily available at our fingertips, it has become difficult to distinguish between what is fact and what is opinion.
In the wake of the recent election, information consumers have become increasingly aware of the growing problem of fake news. Opinions blown up to look like journalistic reporting are liked, shared, and tweeted constantly from either side of the political aisle.
Understanding how to successfully identify fake news is important for the future of our country, so we turned to Pat Van Zandt, Dean of University Libraries at ETSU, for advice.
“Librarians are always interested in helping people find correct information: it’s part of our job,” Van Zandt said.
Van Zandt said one of the tools librarians use and teach is the CRAAP test when verifying information.
“I know it sounds kind of jokey, but when librarians teach information literacy we teach about the CRAAP test,” Van Zandt said.
Each letter of the acronym corresponds to an important element in the process of determining the legitimacy of a news source.
“C is for currency and it reminds you to make sure that what you are reading is up to date,” Van Zandt said. “R is for relevance which asks if the news is relevant. A is for accuracy which requires that the reader evaluate the truthfulness of the information. The second A is for authority which makes sure that whoever is writing knows what they are talking about. For example, I could write a paper on astrophysics but I would have no idea what I was talking about. And P is for purpose because you have to determine if the purpose of the article is to persuade or to inform.”
Aside from the CRAAP test, Van Zandt believes that there are a few key things to look for when examining your sources.
“Fake news tries to appeal to your emotions, so you should be skeptical of anything that produces a strong emotional response,” Van Zandt said.
She also warns against only paying attention to news and news sources that you already know you agree with.
“Some sites like Politifact and Snopes are almost always reliable, but I try to stay wary of other sources that I really like, especially stories suggested by Facebook as it will bring up stories that are similar to things you have already clicked like on,” Van Zandt said.
Ultimately, Van Zandt believes that it is the responsibility of the individual reader to make sure that the information they are consuming is reliable.
“You can’t really avoid fake news, so we all need to take it upon ourselves to be more discerning consumers.”