Letters to the Editor

11/30/16
To The Editors of the Ebbtide,

I would like to applaud the Ebbtide its post-election coverage (Volume 52, Issue 4). Regardless of our individual political views, it is heartening to see SCC students taking a strong political stance, and using the student newspaper as a platform to advocate for themselves. The front page article in which you interviewed a range of campus stakeholders showed a willingness to collaborate with faculty and staff and move forward on issues of shared social interest, which is critical and has the potential to transcend partisanship.

I would like to add to your post-election coverage with a conversation that I did not see represented there. By now, you may have heard about the disturbing role that “fake news” played in the election results, the inefficacy of mainstream media sources when it came to predicting the outcome of this election, and the ongoing role that disinformation is playing in inciting political discord nationwide. This last concept is illustrated perfectly by an article that ran on the New York Times website recently, covering an incident in which a disingenuous tweet fueled national outrage over “paid protesters.” (1)

Last week, a story from NPR (2) highlighted a recent Stanford University study that evaluated the abilities of students from middle school to college to distinguish “real” news from “fake.” (3) Their findings? Almost universally grim. Even college students were not exempt from a lack of the critical thinking skills required to discern bias in the news they consume (4). Happily, librarians have skills and training to combat this tendency. We are here for you, to help evaluate information, whether it is a source for a research paper or a news article. We encourage you to visit the library and ask us questions and to avail yourself of the wide variety of print and online sources of research, journalism, and fiction that the library provides. If you are able, consider enrolling in Caroline Conley’s INFO 150 class, “Research in the Information Age” next quarter (SP 2017). A healthy diversity of sources is the best way to ensure a balanced information diet. Getting the majority of our news from social media is easy, yes, but research has shown that it leads to unhelpful “filter bubbles.” (5)

Two weeks ago, the Oxford Dictionaries announced their annual pick for “Word of the Year:” post-truth is an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’(6) As librarians, educators, students and journalists, we all have an important role to play in reversing the tide of “post-truth.” Truth is not dead. It lives in our libraries, our institutions and our newspapers. It lives in us.

Sincerely,

Chloe Horning
Librarian
Ray Howard Library

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1. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/business/media/how-fake-news-spreads.html?_r=4
2. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/23/503129818/study-finds-students-have-dismaying-inability-to-tell-fake-news-from-real
3. https://sheg.stanford.edu/upload/V3LessonPlans/Executive%20Summary%2011.21.16.pdf
4. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/11/02/why-students-cant-google-their-way-to.html
5. http://graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed/
6. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2016

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