Fake News & Media Literacy Syllabus

I have been collecting links related to fake news and media literacy for several weeks. The topic seems to have exploded since Stanford released its “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning” report in November.  Also in November, the California State Auditor’s office released its report “School Library Services: Vague State Laws and a Lack of Monitoring Allow School Districts to Provide a Minimal Level of Library Services,” in which I learned that “California has by far the poorest ratio of students to teacher librarians in the nation.” Somewhere along the road, it seems that librarians were equated to finding information, and in the “age of the Internet” where anyone can find things, I have often heard the obsolete speech. At my previous job, there was a committee set up to discuss whether the college’s AA and AS degrees (not for transfer) needed to fulfill an information and computer literacy requirement. One of the administrators thought that in the age of Google Chromebooks, there was “no need.” I left that job before a decision was made, and I discovered that the requirement was removed. Given the present state of information literacy, this is a mistake.

Interestingly, our library’s Deputy University Librarian Donald Barclay  wrote a piece called “The Challenge Facing Libraries in an Era of Fake News” in The Conversation a few days ago, and it has made the rounds in so many places! In the piece, he provides an overview of how librarians have helped progress information literacy historically, as well as the challenges facing students in today’s more ambiguous information landscape. My lament about our work is that as long as it’s taught on the periphery–no matter how worthy the Framework and lesson plans we develop may be–Donald is right, “Real progress in information literacy will require librarians, faculty and administrators working together…Indeed, it will require higher education, as well as secondary and primary education, to make information literacy a priority across the curriculum.”

Since before the holidays, the instruction team and I at UC Merced have been developing a digital campaign for our social media accounts and digital signage related to becoming an informed news consumer. (The idea was sparked by this graphic you may have seen before.) Unrelated to this initiative, we’re also pitching a more robust instruction menu, and one of the options is about media literacy. My colleague developed a lesson plan, but I will need to get her permission to share it. Recently, there was a call from Linda Miles at Yeshiva University in the collib listserv for lesson plans related to media literacy. She’ll be sharing those findings soon.

If you’re interested, Programming Librarian will be offering a free 45-minute webinar “Post-Truth: Fake News and a New Era of Information Literacy” on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 2 pm EST. Register by clicking on this link.

My goal for this post is to share the links related to fake news and media literacy that I have been collecting for the last few weeks. I’m sure this sort of project is already in the works (indeed, I even signed up for Twitter again specifically for this topic…), but this is my attempt at a Fake News and Media Literacy Syllabus that can help academic librarians who teach information literacy. The link takes you to a Google Doc that can be edited. Feel free to add articles, tools, lesson plans, LibGuides, etc. to the Syllabus or to this post. I would love for folks to add their names and affiliations as well. I plan to do official citations later, as well as some kind of organization that makes sense. There is tons of stuff I haven’t added, but we’ll get there.

Last updated on Jan. 17, 2017

LexisNexis Academic Webinars

This year, I am making good on my goal to actually watch webinars when they happen and/or watching the archived recording during the same week (or at least month!) I receive access to it. I have a few saved from last fall and spring semesters that I need to watch.

I participated in LexisNexis webinars at the end of August, and while I do use LexisNexis at the community college and at the university, I don’t use it a whole lot. Here are my notes for each of the webinars.

LexisNexis Academic News

  • LexisNexis Academic News has 17,000 sources.
  • LN also has broadcast transcripts and transcripts from news shows, like 60 Minutes.
  • LN also has speeches, both the transcripts as prepared, as well as transcripts as delivered (the online trainer said that President Bill Clinton was famous for straying from the prepared speech).
  • LN also has a feature that opens web news from 300 web sources.
  • Coverage varies by the source and updates also vary by source. For example, full-text NYT articles date back to 1980 and content is updated daily). The lesson here is to use the information button next to the source name for the details.
  • A note about full-text: While the articles available in the database are full-text, not all articles from a particular source may be included in the database. I knew this, but I didn’t exactly know why. One reason is that freelance articles are owned by the journalist, not the publication, so journalists can elect to have their content removed from the databases.
  • LN will find the singular, plural, and possessive forms of words in searches.
  • LN will also find equivalents, not to be confused with synonyms. For example, if you type 1st Amendment, LN will also find First Amendment. This is a really good tip when it comes to numbers in this context. A search for GOP will also bring up all versions of Republican Party.
  • Librarians love field searching. I hadn’t fully explored all the search possibilities, so searching by length was new for me. What I love about this is that it might be helpful for lower level English courses. (This kind of searching reminds me of Dialog, and I was obsessed with it. I was in library school between 2010 and 2011, and even we used Dialog. Headline searching FTW

LexisNexis Legal Research

  • I don’t think I have learned this much from one webinar before. I don’t get too many legal reference questions, but I can tell you that it’s not my strong suit. I always used LN with some trepidation, and while the students and I could find the relevant cases, I knew that I needed to know more about the legal research side in LN to get the most out of it.
  • For legal cases, you can search by citation, party, or topic.
    • Citation: You have to use the exact Blue Book citation, including the periods. The citations are composed of three parts: the first number refers to volume, the second set of letters is an abbreviation for the book or reporter, and the third number refers to the page.
    • Party: You don’t have to enter both party names, and they don’t have to be in the right order. LN will do the search. Just be aware that when doing a party name search, LN will go through short party names, as well as the full list of parties involved, which could be numerous. For example, a search for Jones v. Clinton will also pull results for completely different cases whose short party name does not have either Jones or Clinton. I used to wonder why results like this pop up, but the online trainer said that when LN does the search, it pulls matches from the full list of parties, not just the short party name. Party search looks for matches in the full list.
    • Topic: This isn’t natural searching. This search will look in the headnotes section for matches. Think of headnotes like subject searching/breadcrumbs in the legal world. Here’s how headnotes are super nifty. They tell you all the subjects/topics covered by a particular case. For example, if you look up the headnotes for Roe v. Wade, you can find that other issues besides a woman’s right to choose were involved.
  • The reason why a million things pop up when you do a party search for Supreme Court cases—everything related to a Supreme Court case gets published. This is why you get a lot of hits looking up one case.
  • LN has a handy Landmark Cases feature, which you can find near the big “search everything related to LN” search box. There is a button to the right of the large search box that says “Search by Content Type,” where you can find the Landmark Cases feature. Cases are organized by topic. This is such a useful tool for the kinds of material two-year college students need for their coursework.
  • Also under the legal section under the “Search by Content Type” button is a way to search for federal and state cases. For most student research, the online trainer says it’s best to stick to one’s jurisdiction when searching. In the Federal and State Cases Search, head to the advanced search settings. There is an option to select the specific circuit, such as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as state, such as California.
  • One of my favorite parts of the webinar was a question the online trainer posed, emulating a reference question that is probably common, “What are all the [insert your topic] laws in California?” The easiest way is to go to the ““Search by Content Type” button,” go to the Legal heading, and then select “State Statutes and Regulations.” Under the advanced options, check box statutory code and then the state. Yay for codified law!
  • LN does not have cases related to those at the state trial level. This is because the verdict only affects the parties involved in the case. The decision does not do anything to an entire state or the nation. For these kind of cases, especially for a local issue of interest, newspaper articles are the best bet for research.
  • LN has a legal reference section! Find the “Search by Content Type” button, go to the Legal heading, and then select “Legal Reference.” Under the advanced options, you’ll find American Jurisprudence 2d, Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, Bieber’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations, and the Modern Dictionary for the Legal Profession.
  • At this point in the webinar, I had to talk to a faculty member, so I missed the introduction to Sheppard’s. It’s a nifty citation tool that allows you see if a case has been overturned, reaffirmed, questioned, or cited by other cases.