Woodford County libraries adding technology to provide news literacy to residents

METAMORA (HOI) — A local library district is partnering with a news literacy startup to provide library patrons with tools to help them assess the reliability of news and information websites they see while using library computers, according to a release. 

The Illinois Prairie District Public Library, consisting of eight townships in Woodford County, is collaborating with New York City-based NewsGuard allowing library patrons to have access to nutrition label reviews of news and information websites, which show up next to links in search results and on social media feeds. 

“We’re delighted to be partnering with NewsGuard, which does with online content what librarians have been doing with printed content since the invention of libraries — give readers the basic information they need about what they are about to read,” said Illinois Prairie District Public Library Director Joel Shoemaker. “We’re proud to be taking the lead in deploying NewsGuard’s news literacy tool in Illinois.” 

NewsGuard analysts, who are trained journalists with varied backgrounds, rate websites based on nine binary, apolitical criteria of journalistic practice, including whether a site repeatedly publishes false content, regularly corrects or clarifies errors, avoids deceptive headlines, and whether it discloses ownership and management. 

The startup awards weighted points for each criterion and sums them up; a score of less than 60 earns a “red” rating, while 60 or more earns a “green” rating, which indicates it is generally reliable. NewsGuard also identifies which sites are satire — for example, the popular publication The Onion — and distinguishes platforms, such as YouTube and Wikipedia. 

With its browser extension, NewsGuard displays its ratings next to links in search results and social media feeds. By installing the extension on more than 50 computers at its six branches, Illinois Prairie District Public Library is giving patrons more context for the news they encounter online and helping them build critical news literacy skills. 

“Educators and librarians have long championed efforts to educate their communities about how to assess the veracity of information,” said Macaela Bennett, Director of News Literacy Partnerships for NewsGuard. “NewsGuard’s mission includes collaborating with these natural partners to provide their students and patrons with access to tools that help them navigate the evolving information landscape.” 

A workshop will be hosted at the district’s Germantown Hills branch titled, “Fighting Fake News with Nutrition Labels for Websites: Learn How to be Your Own NewsGuard,” on Thursday, August 29, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. 

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

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