In 1914, Missouri journalist Walter Williams penned The Journalist’s Creed, ethical commandments every journalist should live by.
It claims that “accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism” and “a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true”.
It also says: “Suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.”
But in a time where “fake news” is at the forefront of American politics, it makes sense to look back on journalistic integrity, the history of propaganda and the future of the mass media as America gears up for the midterm elections vote in November.
This creed and more are in a new exhibition entitled The History of Fake News (and the Importance of the World’s Oldest School of Journalism), at the Boone County History & Culture Center in Columbia, Missouri, which traces the history of fake news – from sensational hoaxes to propaganda, yellow journalism, misinformation and factual errors.
“I felt like we should take advantage of this particular year to do something everyone is talking about,” said Chris Campbell, the center’s executive director, who co-curated the exhibit with Clyde Bentley, a retired professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. “We wanted to do it in a way that reminds people that when they vote, to think about how the candidates in public office are reacting to the world of journalism and how it’s going to have a long-term impact on our democracy.”
From old typewriters to printing presses, photos of newsrooms and the front page of one of the world’s oldest newspapers, this exhibit is set on the grounds of where Williams founded one of the world’s first journalism schools, the Missouri School of Journalism (his creed is inscribed on a bronze plaque at the National Press Club in Washington DC).
“Half of the exhibit is devoted to the history of fake news, going back centuries, hoaxes and propaganda throughout the centuries,” said Campbell. “The second half is the antidote to fake news – truth, with proof, often black and white historical photos.”
Though the “fake news” phrase is of recent times, the manipulation of mass information has been around for centuries. The exhibit features three different kinds of fake news: error, hoax and truths deemed false.
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors are greeted by the first amendment written in scarlet red cursive script on the main wall, high up, hovering over all the historical objects.
“We are not just outlining the history of fake news with this exhibit, we are taking the opportunity during this charged political era to remind people that just because some people point to the press coverage they don’t like and call it fake news, doesn’t mean it is fake news,” said Campbell. “The first amendment is critical to our democracy. By putting it in huge print in the middle of the room, it would be the point we would be making.”
The idea for a fake news exhibit came about this winter when Campbell and Bentley, a museum volunteer, began brainstorming for their summer exhibition schedule.
“We started talking about what was going on in the newspapers, the midterm elections and fake news,” said Campbell. “I said: ‘That’s it, we’re going to do an exhibition on the history of fake news.’ Bentley’s eyes lit up. I saw the wheels spinning and we got excited.”
The exhibit features 30 panels and 20 loaned objects, including an early 20th-century typewriter, the Underwood No 10 typewriter, a common typewriter many journalists used from the 1930s to the 1970s (today, the typewriters are in museums and some go for up to ,700 on eBay).
One of the oldest examples of fake news in the exhibit is a reference to the Greek philosopher Socrates, who is quoted on the prevalence of lies and exaggeration as a form of deceitfulness for public gain, or “falling under the spell of an orator”.
“It was a kind of warning for misinformation people would put out,” said Campbell.
Another example which strikes a chilling chord to today, is the history of the British coffeehouses from the 1600s, where locals would chat about the daily gossip and political scandals, around the same time when newspapers began.
“Charles II was so angry with the news against the royals and his own ideas for government, he tried to shut down the coffeehouses to stop the spread of newspapers,” said Campbell. “Eventually nobles convinced him that wouldn’t be a good idea and he backed down and they continued.”
There are also examples of 18th-century yellow press in New York City, “where lies and hoaxes were sold so people would buy them”, said Campbell.
Some other examples include animals discovered on the moon and the rediscovery of dinosaurs in an issue of the Daily Press, bearing the headline: “Dinosaurs! They are Real and the Nazis Have Them.”
There is also the example of Fairies Photographed! an early 20th-century family joke that turned into a media hoax after two young girls were photographed with cardboard cutouts of fairies, which looked real.
There are also fiction stories that turned out to be publicity stunts, like Orson Welles’ famed 1938 radio broadcast, War of the Worlds. The fictional drama which modeled the format of radio news, reported an alien invasion across the world and Martian war machines releasing poisonous gas across New York City.
The New York Daily News cover the next day read: “Fake Radio ‘War’ Stirs Terror Through US.”
“It was a hoax, but Welles saw it as fiction,” said Campbell. “He claimed innocence the next day and told the newspaper he had no idea people would take it seriously, but looking back on his work, he had a genius way of promoting himself, as soon after, he would have a film deal in Hollywood and make Citizen Kane.”
Campbell says that the center is considering creating a series of fake news exhibits to continue after this exhibit closes in January 2019 (which may be extended).
While this particular exhibit covers the history of fake news, the future of it remains undetermined for the free press. “Anyone who doesn’t see that the free press is under threat, whatever side from the political spectrum they come from, are not paying attention,” he said. “The free press is more under attack than it ever has been in recent memory.”
- The History of Fake News (and the Importance of the World’s Oldest School of Journalism) is on display at the Boone County History & Culture Center until January 2019
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Trump Administration Wants California To Pay Back Billions For Bullet Train
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Trump administration plans to cancel $929 million in U.S. money for California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion it’s already spent.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announcement Tuesday came after threats from President Donald Trump to make California pay back the money awarded to build the train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The project has faced cost overruns and years of delays.
The Trump administration argues California hasn’t provided required matching dollars and can’t complete work by a 2022 deadline.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and California rail officials didn’t immediately comment.
Last week, Newsom said the rail project “as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long.” He wants to refocus on building a line in central California.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Calls For Reconsideration of SCOTUS Verdict In New York Times v. Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday urged the court to reconsider its landmark precedent that made it harder for public figures to sue for defamation even as he joined in a decision to end a defamation suit against comedian Bill Cosby.
The 1964 high court ruling in the libel case known as New York Times v. Sullivan has served as a powerful protection for media reporting on public figures. But Thomas, one of the high court’s most conservative justices, said it is not rooted in the U.S. Constitution.
That ruling and the court’s later ones extending it “were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Thomas wrote, expressing views that appear to be aligned with those expressed previously by President Donald Trump.
Thomas made the comments in a concurring opinion agreeing with his fellow justices in refusing to consider reviving a defamation lawsuit against Cosby by Kathrine McKee, an actress and former Las Vegas showgirl who said he falsely called her a liar after she accused him of raping her in 1974.
McKee was represented in the case by attorney Charles Harder, who represented Trump in a defamation suit brought against the president by adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels has said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, which he denies. McKee had appealed a court ruling in Massachusetts that threw out her lawsuit.
In January 2018, Trump called current defamation laws “a sham and a disgrace” following the publication of a book about the White House by author Michael Wolff called “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which among other things questioned the president’s mental health.
The high court’s unanimous 1964 ruling held that in order to win a libel suit, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the offending statement was made with “actual malice,” meaning knowledge that it was false or reckless disregard as to whether it was false.
The case involved a lawsuit against the New York Times, a newspaper that Trump often criticizes for its coverage of him.
Thomas wrote that “we should carefully examine the original meaning of the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” referring to the constitutional provisions protecting freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the application of those rights to the states.
“If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we,” Thomas wrote.
Leaving Neverland: First Trailer For Devastating New Michael Jackson Documentary Released
HBO/Channel 4 production features the testimonies of two men who allege that the singer sexually abused them as children
It’s a documentary Michael Jackson’s estate doesn’t want you to see. But despite legal threats, HBO and Channel 4 will air Leaving Neverland next month.
A new trailer offers a first look at the troubling two-part, four-hour film that premiered at Sundance film festival last month, featuring the testimonies of James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who allege that Jackson sexually abused them as children.
“He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail,” says Robson in the trailer.
The film shocked critics and audiences when it was shown at Sundance. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman called it “devastating” and the Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg praised it as “complicated and heartbreaking”.
“This is not a movie about Michael Jackson,” said director Dan Reed to Variety. “This is not a movie about Michael Jackson abusing little boys. It’s a movie about two families and how two families came to terms with what their sons revealed to them many years after Jackson died.”
Jackson’s estate has already criticised the film in a 10-page letter addressed to HBO’s CEO. It denied the allegations and condemned director Dan Reed for not speaking to anyone in Jackson’s family or legal team. Since the film premiered, some Jackson fans have attacked the director and the two accusers.
“There is also this league of fans who are almost like a cult, and they say very nasty things [about the film] on social media,” Reed said to Vice. “And their words echo the two-decade long rhetoric of the Jackson family and legal team, which is shaming the victims. It happens often in these cases. It’s what they do very aggressively and relentlessly, and I don’t think you can get away with that in 2019 like you could in the past.”
Earlier this month, a Chicago pre-run of an upcoming Broadway show based around Jackson’s music was cancelled because of the Actors’ Equity Association strike reportedly causing delays. Equity has rejected that its “modest” demand was to blame for the cancellation.
“The developmental lab that was scheduled for this production was delayed by 12 working days during the strike,” a spokesman said. “It is difficult to understand how a modest delay in February would impact a run that was scheduled for late October.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
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