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Good news, bad news, and fake news: Going beyond political literacy to democracy and libraries

John Buschman (Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 23 November 2018

Issue publication date: 7 January 2019




Library and Information Science (LIS) has seen an explosion of responses to fake news in the aftermath of the 2016 US election, political in nature, eschewing “neutrality” supporting democracy. The purpose of this paper is to trace the definition of fake news, the challenges, the roots of recent respondes to fake news, notes that the theoretical understanding of democracy must keep pace with these efforts.


Conceptual analysis of the LIS literature concerning fake news and its underlying themes; unpacking of actually existing democracy, re-linked to LIS practices.


Democracy does not require a space cleared of distorting claims but spaces suited to grappling with them, a call to address fake news, and not simply a matter of clearing up information sources; librarians should prepared to engage at the next level. Libraries stand for the proposition that there is more-true information which is worth accessing, organizing, etc., and for inclusion. Whether explicitly political or not, the imaginative uses to which libraries are put do enrich civil society and the public sphere. Libraries help to counter fake news both through specific educative actions aimed at it and as broadly educative institutions with a coherent notion of their relationship to informational discernment in democracy.


LIS discourse on fake news has value, and references democracy, but assumes a set of traditional relationships between informing, libraries and democracy. This paper goes at both the lesser role of informing and highlights the (arguably) greater social role of libraries in democratic society.



Buschman, J. (2019), "Good news, bad news, and fake news: Going beyond political literacy to democracy and libraries", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 1, pp. 213-228.



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