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Downers Grove library program focuses on literacy in the Digital Age, fake news

The Downers Grove Public Library held the final program, “News Literacy in a Digital” of its new three-part series on sifting through and interpreting the onslaught of information presented each day in the media.

The Sept. 26 presentation, led by journalist Charlie Meyerson, was meant to inform and spur discussion on the phenomenon.

“We thought this was a timely program series based on the speed in which information is currently being disseminated,” said Melissa Fischer, public relations manager for Downers Grove Public Library. “We also had librarians visiting different schools to talk about credible resources, so we wanted to expand on that.”

Meyerson acknowledged that news media is increasingly challenged in today’s world and said the fake news phenomenon is hoped to pass in time.

“It’s not a thing, it’s an oxymoron,” he said. “If it’s news, then that is a great word. If it’s news, it happened. If it’s fake, it didn’t happen. So, fake news is not really a thing. Not news is a thing.”

A number of libraries have been hosting similar programs since the 2016 election, and the Downers Grove library received multiple requests to do the same.

“Specifically, as part of the library's strategic plan 2017-2020, we hope to offer more civic engagement themed programs and include timely programs in our scheduling,” Fischer said. “So, this series is a start in that direction.”

Since the launch of Google, people have often found themselves sifting through hundreds and thousands and millions of results to find what they're looking for. Library staff members typically serve as a resource to help with that.

“Recently, the bigger question is knowing what's inside all of those Google results,” Fischer said. “Is the content factual and non-biased? Is it an advertisement or sponsored by a certain individual or company? Is it simply someone's opinion? This is another area the library can help with.”

Meyerson recognizes there are positives to giving readers the ability to question what they consume and refuted the idea of restoring faith in news media.

“The word ‘faith’ bothers me,” he said. “I don’t think you should have faith in news media, especially now. I think you should have faith in reporters, faith in news organizations. News media again is a word that means more than one medium, and it takes in television, radio, newspapers. They all have different agendas, and I think it would be wrong to say, ‘I have faith in the news media.’ I don’t, and I don’t you should. News media is so big, so all encompassing. It takes in every from Fox on the right to Mother Jones on the left and beyond. Some of those organizations may be organizations you want to place your faith in [or] your trust in, and some you may not.”

Attendee Mary Anne Badkey said she was curious to sit in on the program with all the hoopla and craziness going on in the world.

“It was good to hear [Meyerson’s] opinion and other people’s opinions and [discover] a different twist on what you may think,” she said.

Badkey said some of the information presented was new and other information provided a nice recap for her.

“It helps to have few more tools in your tool chest,” she said.

Fischer wants patrons to know there are resources available to help them navigate the digital landscape.

“Overall, I hope the series helped attendees feel more confident identifying what information is true and what is not,” she said. “And when in doubt, they can always call and ask a librarian.”

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