I made a mistake this week. I shared this post on Facebook.

It’s it easy to believe this, isn’t it? After all photos don’t lie. I don’t know that this photo was intended to deceive, I don’t really know anything about it. It looks like the photo came from someones private Instagram account but, what’s the full the story? I mean, is this true only for a particular brand? And, how easy is it to remove this panel? I know to ask these questions (and more) but, I fell for it and reposted something I really didn’t know enough about.  Thankfully, this was a rather benign post, and not one about politics, current events, people or science. But, my followers should have less faith in the next news item I post.

To make it even worse, I’d attended a session this past week as part of the 2020 Critical Librarianship & Pedagogy Symposium, “Casting a critical eye on “fake news” literacy and post truth pedagogy” presented by Carrie Wade, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Wade moves beyond traditional information literacy pedagogy used by librarians to instruct students on post-truth methodologies for evaluating information. I really should have known not to share that photo!

Stick with me, I’m not writing only for librarians.

I learned a lot in the session and had many thoughts I’ve had consolidating into clearer concepts.

You know that practice I use to review books, I’ve always known but not really made clear that the practice isn’t only for literature. Critical literacy practices should be applied to all information sources.

Right now, I have the local news on. As I listen to each story, I ask myself ‘who is this meant for?” How are they framing this story to tell me for whom the story is written? Think of all the news stories about Blacks that have a Black commentator deliver the information. For whom do we think that is meant? Language is also a clue. Listen to a story and ask whose voice is left out. Whose opinion is more prominent and what emotional language, what adjectives and adverbs, are swaying our thoughts? How are we being positioned by this information? Who wrote the story, what agency is behind and what is their agenda? How are they trying to influence me? We don’t always know who wrote a piece on the nightly news, but pay attention to who is advertising routinely during that half hour.

It’s really disappointing to hear so many young people say that they have no idea what to believe any more, that there is essentially no truth. There is a truth, we just have to be willing to do the work to get to the essence of a story and figure out how it relates to us. We have to admit that news organizations, journals, and magazines are all for profit creations that exist for profit. The evening news has just transitioned from local to national and as I watch each story, I’m asking those basic questions. When a report is mentioned, sometimes I’ll look for that original source and get the information unfiltered. If you want to rely on commercial news sources, then no, there is no truth, just someone’s spin on it.

I know many have been disheartened by the rapidly changing news about COVID-19, it’s causes and treatments but, I’ve found this fascinating. This sort of information is typical filtered and guarded by research institutions who peer review and validate everything that is release. This process (which does have its flaws) is time consuming and labor intensive. It takes years to get. articles through peer review and that only happens after years of research that follows strict guidelines. But, here were have researches and practitioners sharing, collecting and discussing in real time. Definitely not an error proof process, but it definitely a whole new way of doing things.

Technology wants to make us intellectually lazy, but we cannot afford that privilege. We really can’t sit back and watch the news, read the paper, scroll our IG or Twitter feed and expect everything to be true, or even real. We know entities are using technology to create stories that influence how we vote.

It is so easy to take the keywords from that article and do a search to see if anyone else is reporting the same. Where’s the original video? Put that photo in Google Image (just drag it into the search bar on Google Image) and find the source. Or, try using FotoForensics.

Here, in this country where we’re trained to be consumers, to value what is associated with the 1% ruling class, our intellect is for sale. There have been so many articles written about how technology drains our attention, our ultimate power as individuals. Be present! Critically question. And above all, discuss and share information with your family and friends. We can weave some crazy webs in our own little minds. Talk about what you’re hearing and bring some light in. Be brave with those conversations and discuss with people of alternate views and see things you would otherwise have missed.

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be well and do good!