August 2017

(From the August 2017 Circle of Friends Newsletter)

I grew up with the belief that pretty much what was printed or disseminated on radio or television as the news was true. Journalistic standards were high, national commentators were battle-tempered on the fronts in WW II, and brought a sense of probity in the late 1940’s and 1950’s news reporting. That was long before social media and the world of “fake news” that we have to wade through today. Imagine how it is for our children to navigate the cacophony of this digital age where spurious accounts circulate instantaneously while thoughtfully researched journalism takes a day or two.

In a recent Stanford study reported by NPR, middle school, high school, and college students were asked to evaluate the information presented in tweets, comments, and articles. The researchers were, in their own words, “shocked” that a significant proportion of supposedly social media-savvy cohort could not distinguish polished sponsored content and passed it on as being true.

The Public Library Association in the November/December 2016 issue states the case for teaching media awareness much better than I can paraphrase. At the bottom line of the feature article is the statement: “Building meaningful relationships and creating safe spaces for open discourse helps identify the public library as a place that community members can trust and librarians as people they can believe in. Information and media literacy is a bipartisan issue and a functioning democracy demands informed citizens. Public libraries are critical to that effort.”

As stated in the bylaws, the Purpose of the Friends of the Castro Valley Library is “To promote literacy and to support the Castro Valley Library as a vital community resource”. To me, it seems that we could wholeheartedly support instruction in our library that would teach the abilities of being
able to discern what is factual from what is “fake”, distinguishing mainstream from fringe, detecting altered photographs, being aware that there is no supporting evidence, and noting an absence of source attribution, falls within that purview.

You might say “Teach them how to fish”.

Roger Caswell, President
Friends of the Castro Valley Library