CLA: Civic Readiness Project
From the CLA Public Life Project
"Public life in the United States today is fractured and often even toxic. Individuals and communities find it difficult, if not impossible to connect across political, religious, and regional lines. And these differences have made their way onto campuses across the country, presenting new challenges for student life, classroom learning, and vibrant intellectual exchange. We believe that a strong liberal arts education can help to address these challenges head-on."
- "I think one of the biggest divides in this country has to do with where people get information from" - Dr. Benjamin Toff, professor of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Finding a variety of perspectives
"The core of a liberal arts education is learning how to take information and then use that information to make an argument to people who you might disagree with." Dr. William P Jones, Professor of History from the Public Life Project.
Information is all around us. One job you have, as UMN students (and human), is to continue to build skills to find and critical evaluate the information you use in your daily life, in your conversations and in your academic or classwork. The goal is not to find information you agree with but to be exposed to and grow tolerance and then understanding for why people have different beliefs about complex topics, issues, events and situations.
How do we evaluate information when we find it?
We all have ways to get information -- over time we learn what we can trust and what we can't. When learning about new topics or topics we are unfamiliar with - it can be challenging to know what to trust, what is fact and what is opinion. Finding multiple sources which have similar information is on technique.
- Learn more: Evaluating Sources (from University of California-Berkley Libraries)
Be aware of your search terms and keywords
When searching for information or source -- using Google or a tool like a library article database -- be aware of your search terms and how they can impact your results. Using biased or "charged" search terms or keywords will lead to results that are similarly biased. For example, searching for "product safety" vs. "consumer protection" will influence the information you find. Be aware and add new terms to your search as you learn more about the topic.
- Learn more: Identifying Bias (from University of Wisconsin -Green Bay Library)
Be aware of misinformation and disinformation (a.k.a #fakenews)
Some information is simple false and wrong. There are many motivations -- usually involving money $$ -- from clicks to paid promotions to foreign interference -- for sites or sources to have wrong information. Learn some red flags that should make you pause and verify - like strange URLs, no authors, major grammatical errors, extreme language, and more.
- Learn more: Fake News & Disinformation (from Central Washington University Libraries)
Be aware of algorithms and filter bubbles
Search engines and social media have algorithms that cater to our interests. Sounds great - until we become isolated in our "filter bubbles." Watch: How Filter Bubbles isolate you (2 mins) to learn more.
"Algorithms of oppression : how search engines reinforce racism" by Safiya Umoja Noble (view online book in UMN Libraries)
Be aware of information privilege
Information (even digital) isn't free to create. Some sites and sources use advertising to help pay for it and others are charging to view. Libraries pay publishers to have access to journals, magazines, and newspapers. Having an awareness of some of the economics behind information (e.g. open access) can help make judgements about using and evaluating information.
- Learn more: Information privilege (from City University of Seattle Library)
Major news sources
Not every story gets it right every time. However many sources strive for accuracy and have processes in place to correct errors when they happen. You you read articles and stories look at multiple sources of information and see if the facts are holding up.
Many news sources have two major types of content:
- "News articles" that are written by trained professionals that use journalistic techniques to find and report facts. These types of stories try to give an accurate and balanced report of an event or topic. These are usually on the "front" page of a newspaper.
- "Opinions or Editorials" (or Op/Eds) are written to share an opinion on an event or topic. These often talk about a person's individual experience and are NOT "fact checked" and are NOT written in a "balanced" way showing multiple perspectives.
Both are valid. Generally a range of sources can help to give background and context for complex issues and events.
In the "advanced search" in most newspaper databases you can limit to "editorial" or "editorial cartoon" or "article" or "feature."
Turn the channel: Seek out alternative viewpoints
Often, it is helpful to seek out a range of human experience and a range of perspectives. This can be done by reaching out to people with a different background than ours and having conversations and listening. Also reading books, watching documentaries or listening to podcasts or music from authors or creators with difference experiences. And also working to find alternative viewpoints. Try these tools to find alternative sources of information. There are smaller, high-quality sources of news and information which seek out a range of experiences and perspectives.
Why use alternative sources?
"These sources tend to be written from an acknowledged political perspective–for example, liberal or conservative–and they often promote a specific agenda. They might, however, report on news that is of interest to a specific community–often a marginalized one–without endorsing any defined ideology. Examples of these might be African American newspapers, gay and lesbian magazines, military newspapers, or publications of immigrant groups."
Minnesota News Resources
The newspapers and news sources below are non-partisan, reputable sources that focus on Minnesota-related topics, candidates, and issues. Be aware that many news sources, including some below, publish opinion or editorial pieces that are the author's opinion on a subject and not meant to be purely factual reporting. All articles as such will be labeled as opinion pieces or editorials, but they are published alongside regular news reports and articles.