The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
The Toledo Lucas County Public Library System has teamed up with NewsGuard to provide library patrons with a news literacy tool to help them assess the reliability of the news and information websites they see online.
For the past two years, the Library has been focused on providing Mozilla's Web Literacy training to both its staff and the public on how to read, write, and participate on the web. One aspect of that training is news literacy and the importance of not believing everything you read. As part of its continued web literacy efforts, adding NewsGuard is the next natural step to educate the community on whether a source is credible and can be trusted or not.
"Our goal in providing NewsGuard is to equip our Lucas County community and customers with the training and tools needed in order to recognize credible information online, whether it is for lifelong learning or entertainment," adds Andy Lechlak, digital strategist for the Library.
NewsGuard analysts, who are trained journalists with varied backgrounds, rate news and information websites using nine standard journalistic criteria to assess credibility and transparency. Each website is rated green or red, and Nutrition Label write-ups accompany each rating to explain with full transparency how each website performs up against these criteria.
NewGuard's Icon Rating System
With its free browser extension, NewsGuard displays its ratings next to links on search engines and social media feeds. By installing the extension onto hundreds of computers at its 20 branches, Toledo Library is giving patrons more context for the news they encounter online and helping them build critical news literacy skills.
“Educators recognize the importance of equipping their students with the skills to assess the credibility of information online,” said Sarah Brandt, Vice President of News Literacy Outreach for NewsGuard. “By making NewsGuard available on approximately 800 library computers at branches across Lucas County, Toledo Library is acknowledging that news literacy is a lifelong skill that should be taught to adults and students alike.”
With support from Microsoft Corp., which is sponsoring the NewsGuard news literacy initiative, NewsGuard makes its browser extension available as a free teaching tool. Dozens of libraries nationwide have already installed NewsGuard’s extension on patron computers. NewsGuard expects this year to add hundreds of public libraries across the country to its list of news literacy partners, as well as middle schools, high schools, universities, and other educational organizations.
“Rather than censoring news sites and telling patrons what they can or cannot read, librarians can use NewsGuard to provide patrons with context about their sources,” said NewsGuard co-CEO Gordon Crovitz. “By reading NewsGuard’s Nutrition Label reviews of websites, which include detailed explanations of how a site fared on NewsGuard’s nine criteria, patrons will gain a better understanding of how to assess the credibility of information they encounter online.”
“Giving readers information about sources of information is what librarians have been doing since the invention of libraries,” added NewsGuard co-CEO Steven Brill. “That’s why these NewsGuard-library partnerships make so much sense and why they are now happening so quickly.”
Librarians and educators interested in bringing NewsGuard to their library or school can visit NewsGuardTech.com or contact Sarah Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to the news literacy program, NewsGuard expects social media and search companies to license its ratings and reviews and integrate them into their news feeds and search results.
Why NewsGuard? Media Literacy vs. Censorship
Promotion literacy is at the heart of the Library's mission - and that includes web, news and media literacy. Likewise, the Library wants to emphasize the distinction between media literacy and censorship.
Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms. This is a role the Library has traditionally played with books, magazines, movies and so on. We have trained our staff and community in web literacy basics, and the NewsGuard tool is just one of many tools we use to help our communities navigate and participate in an increasingly complex media landscape.
Censorship is determining what people are or are not allowed to access or view. The NewsGuard shield that appears next to a search result or social media post does not stop a customer from visiting the link. It does inform them about the credibility of the organization that generated that link. Likewise, if a customer does not wish to use NewsGuard while using one of the Library's public computers, they are able to disable it themselves (or ask a staff member for help in disabling it).
Launched in March 2018 by media entrepreneur Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard provides credibility ratings and detailed “Nutrition Labels” for thousands of news and information websites. They are conducted by trained analysts with diverse backgrounds, who review and describe the websites’ adherence to nine journalistic criteria. NewsGuard’s ratings are available through NewsGuard’s browser extension for Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari browsers and are displayed next to links in users’ search engine results and social media feeds. NewsGuard’s ratings can be licensed by platforms that wish to make NewsGuard’s ratings available to their users. For more information visit www.newsguardtech.com.