Journalism Literacy in LIS (or lacktherof) – Also Stephen Colbert

I have been thinking a lot about journalism lately, and the importance of cross-disciplinary knowledge sharing. Some of the best things I have learned in this degree have been from learning about a discipline I had little knowledge in such as computer science knowledge of how databases and networks work. I also think it is important for librarians to know how the publishing industry works and I was lucky enough to have heard from two collections librarians for a vendor, who gave some good insight into that area. Similarly, a large amount of information is disseminated through media, yet the basics of journalism are something I know almost nothing about. This is a gap I will be bringing up as feedback for the program, though I think this is a common problem and not unique to any particular library school.

I’ve talked about this before, but it came up again as I was listening to this interview of Stephen Colbert on Slate Radio’s show Working. In it, he gives a breakdown of his roles as a writer, producer, and comedian. One of the ideas that interested me most was his concept of distillation: he says that he ‘distils’ the news. He uses primary sources for his stories whenever possible so that no distillation has already occurred. He also talked a bit about what it is like to write for his program The Colbert Report and mentions that he has several researchers working for him. Adding that to the list of jobs that I would love to do. Except the person in that job probably would benefit from knowing more about journalism! (PS you can find a list of people who have this job on LinkedIn)

As I was listening I enjoyed learning a little bit about tv/news production. Because of my visit to CBC’s Toronto headquarters last week, I also know a little bit more. Hopefully once I am done my degree these will be something I can look into and learn more about on my own.


Who provides the content?

Being in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, journalism and media issues have snuck into library school curriculum. So it peaked my interest to learn that Postmedia has puchased most of Sun media and now both Calgary newspapers are owned by the same company. This is particularly odd because these papers have traditionally run a sort of competition with each other and have made their political and target market niches.

I was particularly interested to see their goals: “We need this scale, and of course time, to be able to compete with the giant foreignowned, digital-only companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, etc.” (sic; Friend, 2014). It seems odd, maybe just because journalism and media studies is not by forte, for news outlets to be competing with these corporations because I see  newspapers as content creators and disseminators of information; As a user I see social media and search engines as access points and rather than content creators so it seems unusual for media to think of themselves as social media and search engine competitors.

In my information policy course, we have talked about this in regards to net neutrality and the shift from infrastructure providers to content providers in the telecommunication/entertainment industry. In the future, apparently, journalism will no longer be content providers but telecommunication will? I’m curious to see how that pans out.


Friend, D. (2014, Oct 7). Postmedia’s mega deal. Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved from

Public Libraries in Film and TV

Ok, so I have a slight addiction with the tv show Criminal Minds. Though I only recently started to watch them in sequence, I have been watching this season religiously. I was surprised that twice in the last few weeks they have made public libraries significant to the plot line:

[*Spoiler Alert*]

  1. In Season 9, Episode 6 “In the Blood” the plot centered around a volunteer at a local public library who is obsessed with a library book and kills all the people who take an interest in it. He is shown shelving books, but a library staff member (librarian?) tells the police that he is a volunteer. [Though one of the criminal minds wiki’s called him a volunteer librarian, good grief]
  2. In Season 9, Episode 16 “Gabby” a child is abducted. At the very end of the episode they have figured out who has done it, and has them in custody, but not where the child is. The guilty party doesn’t have a computer or internet connection in their home, but Penelope Garcia figures out that they have been using the public library to get online and connect with people to give away the abducted child. Garcia says that she used to go to the public library to do her computer hacking [although, for clarification, I think her character was actually doing hacktivism, though I don’t believe that word is used in the show itself].

My first reaction in both cases was “How cool that they’re acknowledging that the library exists!” My second reaction was “Kind of sad that it’s in such a negative context, but this is a crime show.” My current thoughts are more along the lines of “How does this reflect on my profession?” I love it that the show features people using the library but am thinking it creates a stereotype that only criminals use library services. In the episode “Gabby”, it is specifically mentioned that public libraries don’t retain internet records of patrons to protect their privacy—but Garcia manages to find it anyways! This sort of gives the impression that public libraries are a place for criminal activity which could lead to people feeling like the library isn’t a safe space. However, I have some glimmer of hope that maybe it reminds people that the public library is a place to get free internet access and that we care about user privacy. I need to find another Criminal Minds fan who is a librarian so that we can discuss the issues and implications. Or,  I could write a research paper?


Anyone interested in this librarians in film should definitely check out the documentary The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians through Film. It’s a really great look at libraries and librarians in popular film and television. Check out the trailer below:


Other resources I’ve found on libraries in film include the following websites:

  • Wikipedia article on librarians in popular culture
  • Pinterest board of films with scenes of libraries
  • Website of Movie Librarians [Search engine doesn’t seem to work well, just scroll down and click on links)

I’d welcome any comments about how people feel librarians and libraries are portrayed in the media. It’s an ongoing issue that is constantly changing and it is definitely something that I would like to explore more at some point.