In the past, Lynda Oakley says she always saw life — and politics — moving along "in an OK way." But that's no longer the case.
"Now I'm afraid ... that I could wake up any morning and find out something really bad had been decided while I was sleeping," she says.
The Beaverton resident has recently wanted to be more civically engaged — and that's what drew her and several other attendees to the Lake Oswego Public Library last week for a "Civics for Adults" discussion on misinformation, fake news and political propaganda.
The lecture, led by teacher and librarian Donna L. Cohen, explored various types of online content — trustworthy and otherwise — and offered tips on how to check the credibility of a particular article, photo, video, graphic or statistic.
Oakley says the discussion was full of reminders to think twice about what she reads and sees online.
"We as citizens need to be careful," she says. "We need to become more aware of what we're being fed and be more critical of what we hear every day."
During the lecture, she and her fellow attendees learned how to fact-check news online; distinguish between trustworthy news sources and fake news or propaganda pieces; think critically about terminology and statistics; and use the library's wealth of resources for research.
Cohen, who began teaching the civics classes throughout the Portland metropolitan area last year, says she hoped attendees at the Lake Oswego Library event on May 9 would leave with new ideas about how to slow down and ask questions when they come across articles or other forms of media.
"I've always thought that this workshop is the foundation for everything else," she says. "I hope that as they look at information, they will just be thinking more critically ... not sending things to their friends that they haven't checked out for accuracy and not letting their friends get away with it."
Cohen teaches classes on citizen activism, the Constitution and elections and campaign financing with the goal of enhancing civic knowledge and inspiring political engagement.
"A lot of people just are disconnected from civic and political life. Part of it is that they just don't know what to do," she says, and that's why she's so passionate about the work she does.
"Democracy doesn't work," Cohen says, "if people aren't involved."
To learn more about Cohen's workshops, visit www.civicthinker.net.
IS THAT TRUE?
How do you know if that online news story is real or fake? Teacher and librarian Donna L. Cohen recommends these websites:
The Fact-Checker: www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker
These online articles can also help:
How to Self-Check the News and Get the Facts: n.pr/2hbEsl3
A Savvy News Consumer's Guide: How Not to Get Duped: bit.ly/2gmV1KP
Six Quick Ways to Spot Fake News: bit.ly/1Usr0mw