Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Cullman Times. February 1, 2024.

Editorial: Testing your news literacy

This past week wrapped up annual National News Literacy Week with an opportunity to test your awareness of what’s news and what isn’t — so if keeping up with the news were a quiz, how well do you think you’d do: ( newslit.org/tips-tools/how-news-literate-are-you-quiz/ ).

The News Literacy Project leads the national public awareness campaign to promote news literacy and the role of a free press in American democracy.

National News Literacy Week is dedicated to empowering people of all ages to become more news-literate. Throughout the week, various activities, educational resources and discussions are promoted to foster an understanding of news literacy, emphasizing its significance in empowering citizens to make informed decisions and engage constructively in society.

Each year, National News Literacy Week focuses on a different theme. In 2024, the initiative “turns a spotlight on local news and its role in a healthy democracy.” Local news serves as the cornerstone of communities, offering a unique insight that national news cannot replicate. It also keeps residents informed about what’s happening in their immediate surroundings, from city council meetings and school board decisions to local festivals and public safety updates.

In a world riddled with “fake news,” how do you determine what is real and what is not? The News Literacy Project has a quiz to help you with that, and it can be taken with news slanted towards liberals or conservatives. It shows seven social media posts and lets you decide which is “fake news” and which is real news, followed by a quick explanation of how each post represents solid facts or questionable assertions and what you can do to find good information and protect yourself from misinformation in the future.

At the end, you can choose to take the quiz again if you’d like to see the other version of it. You might find a surprise or two — some posts show up in both versions, and the tips to finding truth and avoiding falsehood are the same no matter your political leanings.

The quiz is like a blood pressure check — a way to gauge your news literacy health, rather than something you have to pass. So check out NewsLiteracyWeek.org and find a friend or two to talk about the news literacy tips the quiz incorporates.

Remember that while there is a lot of credible information on social media, it can be easy to fall prey to falsehoods as you scroll — especially those that resonate with your values and beliefs. We all need to stay vigilant and help stop the spread of falsehoods.

The role of the press is especially important as a new president takes office and installs a slew of federal appointees. It’s up to us news organizations to help you, the taxpayer, keep your elected officials accountable, and that starts with having the most accurate information you can about what they’re up to with your tax dollars.

But how can you tell that what you’re seeing is accurate information? That’s what news literacy is about. Regular literacy is knowing how to read and write competently. News literacy, likewise, is knowing how to identify what’s true in a world where a lot of so-called information is misinformation.


Decatur Daily. February 3, 2024.

Editorial: Libraries shouldn’t be political battleground

Under pressure from the governor and state lawmakers who have threatened its budget, the Alabama Public Library Service this week voted to cut its ties to the American Library Association.

Public libraries have become the latest battleground in America’s culture war — a war waged mostly by donor-seeking activists with large mailing lists, but which sweeps up everyone as collateral damage.

Alabama’s continued ALA membership became an issue because the ALA is a symbolic target. The organization’s president — whose term ends in a few months — has described herself as a “Marxist,” and the organization has published recommended reading lists of young adult books dealing with gay, lesbian and transgender issues, all of which fall under an ever-expanding rubric of LGBTQ+.

Neither of these two facts amount to much at the local level. Community libraries use ALA recommendations as guidelines, not as ironclad rules. The only ALA rules local libraries swear by are its bill of rights.

Article V of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights says, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.”

This innocuous statement in support of free speech and non-discrimination has earned the ire of some right-wing groups, specifically Moms for Liberty, which took issue with it in an open letter last month.

As a result, some local libraries, like the Athens-Limestone Public Library, have tried to get out in front of the controversy by rewriting their policies to remove ALA boilerplate. Other libraries, such as the Decatur Public Library, are waiting for the dust to settle first.

While Moms for Liberty, Clean Up Alabama and similar activist organizations say they’re trying to protect children from inappropriate material, they have bypassed the existing mechanisms that would do just that.

Every local library in Alabama has a process allowing people to challenge books in their collection. According to the Athens-Limestone Public Library’s director, only two or three books have been challenged in the library’s 54 years of operation.

The challenge process requires that challengers fill out a form, read the book in question in its entirety and speak with library staff. From there, the local library board reviews the book and makes a decision.

Gov. Kay Ivey and others say that’s too much trouble, and they want to make the process easier.

At their insistence, the Alabama Public Library Service recently launched an online portal that allows Alabamians to f lag books they deem inappropriate for children.

The portal involved less effort than having to explain to another human being why a book is inappropriate, but it’s also easily gamed by groups with a political agenda, who can drum up their members to go after any particular book.

Local librarians know this, and so far it looks like they’re not taking the portal seriously. At the meeting where the APLS board voted to disaffiliate from the APA, APLS Director Nancy Pack admitted local library directors largely disregard portal submissions.

Libraries are wonderful tools that help expose people young and old to knowledge and ideas they might otherwise never encounter. People may not agree with all of those ideas, but that’s not the point. Yes, we expect a well-stocked library to carry a copy of Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital.” We also expect it to carry Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.”

With due consideration of age appropriateness, we expect books for children and teens to portray a wide variety of views and experiences, too. Banning those books doesn’t make those experiences go away — it just leaves people less prepared for when they encounter them in the real world.

And if a book really is objectionable, there’s already a process for that.