Both during and after I worked as an editor for a daily newspaper, I touted the importance of professional editing to examine things before they go to print. (To avoid self-plagiarism, I’ve cited prior writings. My mentor in social media, fact checking and media ethics would expect no less of me.)
Editors monitor the accuracy of information and correct errors of spelling, grammar and typography (to cite two criteria for “Accuracy” defined by Widener University).
The professional editor separates opinion from objective reporting and labels it for readers. But more and more, citizens are bypassing professional outlets -- even online publications -- in favor of other online sources. By doing so, they must, in effect, act as their own editor.
As a library professional, I have a continuing interest in promoting information literacy. When consumers fail to ask questions about the media they consume, they are completely at the mercy of anyone with a professional-seeming website.
Just look at the hoax surrounding “dihydrogen monoxide,” otherwise known as water. Highlighted during another of my Cuesta College courses, it’s an example of how, in the words of Wikipedia, “the lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears.”
Who better than a library professional to teach consumers to ask tough questions about the information they encounter online? Who better to help consumers identify the questions they ought to ask?
Esther Grassian with the UCLA College Library groups several possible questions under content, source, structure and date. In the first category, these include identification of the audience, comprehensiveness and accuracy and the relative value of the site compared to other resources.
- “Dihydrogen monoxide hoax.” Wikipedia. 14 Oct. 2014 (Most recent revision, according to revision history). Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
- Grassian, Esther. Thinking Critically About World Wide Web Resources. UCLA College Library, 1995. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
- Parkhill, Cynthia. “Paper.li: Auto-curating can’t mimic editor’s touch.” Cynthia Parkhill: Library Assistant. Blogger. Editor. 12 Aug. 2013.
- ----. “Story omitted a key question.” Ashland Daily Tidings. 23 Nov. 2014. (Posted to my blog as “Library should be student researchers’ first stop.”)
- ----. “Verification Handbook.” Cynthia Parkhill: Library Assistant. Blogger. Editor. 28 Jan. 2014.
- ----. “What would Steve Buttry attribute?” Cynthia Parkhill: Library Assistant. Blogger. Editor. 8 Dec. 2012.
- Widener University. “How to Recognize a News Web Page.” Evaluate Web Pages. 2005. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.