Fake News and transparency

New York Times Newsroom
By Bpaulh (Own work (Original text: self-made)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’m recommending a webinar recording about fake news. This presentation distinguishes itself from some others on the subject in a few important ways.

Firstly presenter Dr. Adam Blackwell (ProQuest) makes an effort to define fake news. Allcott & Gentzkow (2017) describe producers of fake news as valuing neither accuracy nor their long-term reputation. Blackwell uses this point to distinguish fake news from bias or satire. He defines fake news as demonstrable falsehoods produced without regard for accuracy or for one’s reputation.

Second of all the discussion does not portray news consumers as empty vessels. The danger of fake news is not that it puts false ideas in people’s heads, but that it can confirm false ideas one already has (Blackwell & Derks, 2017). In times of uncertainty those ideas can be too comforting to critique.

Finally the webinar is noteworthy for its transparency. Though Dr. Blackwell works for ProQuest, he starts with the disclaimer that the opinions expressed are his own and not those of ProQuest. When he demonstrates ProQuest’s Research Companion, he mentions the sources of the website flags the tool provides. For example data on hate group sites comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Part of evaluating information is knowing how it was created (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2016, Information Creation as a Process section, Dispositions subsection). We have a glimpse of how ProQuest Research Companion and the webinar were created.

I should close with a disclaimer of my own.   My choice of image is not a commentary on the New York Times: I simply wanted a public domain image of a newsroom.


Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal Of Economic Perspectives31(2), 211-236. doi:10.1257/jep.31.2.211

Association of College & Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved from ACRL website : http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework

Blackwell, A. (Host), & Derks, M. (Moderator). (2017, August 23). ACRL-Choice webinar: The (unintentional) rebranding of a longstanding information literacy problem as “fake news” [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/akA6OR_mBL8

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