In The News

Anderson: Journal Star, public library hosting community discussion on news literacy, fake news

This article appeared in the Peoria Journal Star on June 24, 2017. This article mentions the work of our one of our grantees, the Peoria Public Library. You can find the original article here.

It’s an exciting time to be a journalist. Exciting because in my 32 years in the business, I’ve never seen people more engaged in the news as they have been since the 2016 presidential campaign.

Problem is, some of the news people are consuming is false, whether it be blatant deception from an illegitimate news site or a source feeding a legitimate news organization a lie. No matter the intention, it makes our job as journalists harder, especially in the digital age.

I am confident the news from the Journal Star and that of other organizations we partner with (including The Associated Press and Washington Post) is credible because I know how hard journalists there are working. They check and report both sides of an issue and seek documentation to support the facts. That’s how credible news organizations report the news.

The Journal Star hopes to share some of our experience with readers this summer by presenting a community discussion series hosted by the Peoria Public Library. The four community discussions on how to discern whether a news item is legitimate will take place at:

• 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, at Peoria Public Library Lakeview Branch, 1137 W. Lake Ave.

• 6 p.m. Monday, July 10, at Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch, 1312 W. Lincoln Ave.

• 6 p.m. Monday, July 17, at Peoria Public Library North Branch, 3001 W. Grand Pkwy.

• 1 p.m. Saturday, July 22 , at Peoria Public Library Main Library, 107 NE Monroe St.

All meetings, which will last about 75 to 90 minutes, are free and open to the public.

When library representatives approached us in the spring about the discussions, newsroom staff members were enthusiastic about participating. While these are exciting times for us, journalists also face a lot of questions about fairness and bias. So, this was our chance to share with the public how we do our jobs.

Joining me at some of the events will be Managing Editor Sally McKee, Assistant Managing Editor-Digital Adam Gerik, Universal Desk Editor Katie Gaston, political reporter and Assignment Editor Chris Kaergard and reporters Laura Nightengale and Steve Tarter.

We will talk about how to spot fake news, check news sources, be skeptical and determine which news organizations are more likely to be credible.

My colleagues across the nation are doing similar workshops. Some are based on the work being done by the nonpartisan News Literacy Project. The NLP was created to work with educators and journalists to teach middle school and high school students how to sort fact from fiction. The NLP says it teaches skills needed to be smart consumers of news and information as well as engaged and informed citizens.

Peoria Public Library’s involvement in the discussions is supported by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council to encourage participants to talk about how fake news influences civility and democracy in our society and how to avoid being influenced by it. Illinois Humanities is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly (through the Illinois Arts Council Agency), as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations.

The Journal Star does not receive any of the grant funding and is volunteering staff expertise.

We hope to see you at one of the community discussions.

Journal Star Executive Editor Dennis Anderson can be reached at 309-686-3159, danderson@pjstar.com or on twitter at @dennisedit.