Can you spot fake news in the COVID-19 era?



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Many news articles are published daily, updating media consumers with information related to COVID-19. Several of the articles are true stories based on facts, but some contain false information. In a pandemic time, it is important for media consumers to be able to determine between real and false information in a dynamic and changing 24-hour news cycle. University libraries offer resources to teach students, faculty, and members of the campus community how to know if an article has the correct information.

There are many different forms of “fake news” that can appear in articles, videos, and on social media. For example, a news article is published about a fake cure for COVID-19. This article is shared via the Internet and social media, and then additional new articles are posted and shared. Suddenly, the information is everywhere, only later is it revealed that the information was not true. How would a person know whether or not that information was objective in the first place?

This is where expert librarians in university libraries come in. Subject librarians have specific areas of expertise and are trained information literacy experts. They know how to spot fake news and are always available to help students find and verify credible sources they need for their academic work or areas of personal interest.

Information literacy is the integrative skill set that encompasses reflective discovery of information, understanding how information is produced and valued, and using information to create new knowledge and ethically participate in learning communities.

Students can contact or make an appointment with the subject librarian through the “Find your librarian” tab on the university libraries website.

Teresa Schultz
Teresa Schultz, Social Sciences Librarian, University Libraries

“We have resources to help teach students to think critically about what they read on the news, as well as verify their own facts,” said Teresa Schultz, social science librarian at University Libraries. “Librarians love to help students analyze what they read, whether it’s an academic article for a class assignment or the next big meme on Instagram.”

University libraries offer many databases, including OneSearch, which allows anyone with an active university NetID to search for academic articles.

“Fake news has social and emotional dimensions,” added Schultz. “People respond to information emotionally first and cognitively second. Just because a person sees a news item appear in their Facebook feed does not mean they are trustworthy. “

When looking at an article, a person should assess who wrote the article and consider what biases they might have. It’s also smart to see and see if the article has any evidence to back up its claims.

“Consider your source. Is the source a legitimate means of communication? ”Said Georgia Grundy, member of the Library Extension Committee and library technician at University Libraries. “There have been several bogus cures and home test offers for COVID-19 online and on social media. Facing a threat like COVID-19, having incorrect information can be deadly to you or others. “

Georgia Grundy
Georgia Grundy, member of the Library Extension Committee and library technician for University Libraries.

“Students should use the resources of the University Libraries because the library resources have been peer-reviewed,” added Grundy. “Librarians and research staff are still available to help students locate and evaluate quality research sources.”

At the University of Nevada, Reno, each academic department has its own assigned librarian. These librarians are available to help with research needs and provide personalized, individualized assistance. They also offer guidance on topics such as academic posters, copyright, online publishing, author reputation, open educational resources, data management, systematic reviews, academic metrics, and open access journals.

“We are here to help, even when we are off campus,” Schultz said. “You can send an email to your librarian or even schedule a Zoom appointment online. We are here to support students during this time. The community on campus may look different right now, but we continue to build a community virtually while supporting the academic and personal success of students. ”

Schultz also suggests that community members use fact-checking resource websites like Snopes to help better determine between real and fake news.

About university libraries

University libraries embrace intellectual research and innovation, foster the production of new knowledge, and foster excellence in learning, teaching, and research. During each academic year, Libraries welcome more than 1.2 million visitors to their network of three branch libraries: the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library, and the Savitt Medical Library. Visitors registered more than 80,000 articles and completed more than 2 million database searches.


McKenna Lambert