newspaper article in the Dyersville Commercial
Fact Checking @ Your Library
A few weeks ago the James Kennedy Public Library was invited to participate in the Iowa Media Literacy Project. We were one of 12 Iowa libraries selected to participate in this special initiative to teach young people about how to be smart information consumers. The goal is to teach high school students news and media literacy, how to use media tools in the real world, and help them learn how to discern fact from fiction. This is a national project of the American Library Association, funded by a grant by the Open Society Foundations. Iowa was chosen as a short term project within the larger grant because of the Iowa Caucuses.
The first step of the project was for two high school students and a librarian to attend a day long workshop. I attended this workshop and I wanted to share with you some of what I learned. Because we are all being inundated with “facts” through the media, especially related to the political candidates, campaign promises, etc., I thought some of you might be interested in ways that you can determine what is information, opinion, news, or propaganda.
The workshop provided quite a bit of background on where you might encounter information and how to determine if it was accurate, but the one part of the workshop that I have been using and have found quite enlightening and helpful was the information on fact checking. There is a book called The Fact Checker’s Bible that the library will soon be adding to its collection. There are also several websites that I want to share with you. This information is taken from a handout distributed at the workshop called “Fact-Checking Resources for the ALA-NLP Iowa Workshop 11/19/2011” which was created by the News Literacy Project.
The site I have used most frequently is Politifact.com. This site is produced by the St. Petersburg Times and provides a scorecard separating fact from fiction. Among other things, it tracks President Obama’s campaign promises. Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, is an independent, equal opportunity organization that checks what politicians say for accuracy. The Washington Post Fact Checker (www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker) reviews statements by political figures regarding issues of great importance. Another site, On the Issues: Every Political Leader on Every Issue (www.issues2000.org), provides background information on various issues and then each candidate’s position. The Sunlight Foundation (http://sunlightfoundation.com/) is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens.
The Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org) is a nonpartisan, independent, nonprofit research group that tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The National Institute on Money in State Politics (www.followthemoney.org) is a resource for information on money in state politics.
Rumorcheck.org is a website dedicated to countering the creation and mass distribution of statements that have little or no basis in fact. Snopes.com is a good place to go to check out rumors, legends, myths, and viral emails that seem too wild to be true.
For those of you specifically interested in the Iowa Caucuses, the Des Moines Register has a 2012 Caucus page (http://caucuses.desmoinesregister.com/) which covers just about everything you might want to know about the presidential race in Iowa. If you are interested in hearing a candidate in person, the Register pages include a candidate tracker which shows where the candidates and events are.