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Fake news: an exhibition on the importance of accurate journalism

While a history of hoaxes, inaccuracy and lies within journalism is on display, so is an ode to a free press that is under greater threat than ever before

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Fake news: an exhibition on the importance of accurate journalism” was written by Nadja Sayej, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th August 2018 16.24 UTC

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.”

The History of Fake News (and the Importance of the World’s Oldest School of Journalism)

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.

A 17th-century coffeehouse mob
A 17th-century coffeehouse mob. Photograph: The Boone County History & Culture Center

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

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Breaking News

Trump Administration Plan To Reopen America Being Released Thursday.

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ABC News reports:

President Donald Trump’s plan to re-open the American economy after a near-total shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic consists of three graduated phases, according to a copy of the proposed actions obtained by ABC News.

Trump unveiled the plan in a video conference call with the nation’s governors on Thursday afternoon. The state leaders were instructed that they could move through the guidelines at their own pace and that the guidelines are not formal orders from the federal government, according to a person familiar with the call.

“Phase one” calls on employers to telework where possible, return to work in phases, minimize non-essential travel and make accommodations for the vulnerable populations within the workforce. It calls on all vulnerable individuals to “shelter in place,” and when in public, all individuals should continue social distancing.

However, a critical piece to this is the “gating criteria” that all states and regions should achieve before they can move on to phase one. This includes a “downward trajectory” of reported “influenza-like illnesses,” “covid-like syndromic cases” and “documented cases” or “positive tests as a percent of total tests” within a 14-day period, as well as the ability for hospitals to “treat all patients without crisis care” and have a “robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

In “phase two,” non-essential travel for employers can resume. Schools and organized youth activity can reopen. Bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with proper social distancing measures in places. Churches can open with social distancing. Elective surgeries can resume.

The third phase says bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with limited social distancing and proper sanitation.

The president described the guidelines “as a bit of a negotiation,” a source said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Preview the Trump Adminstration US reopening plan here or below.

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U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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LONDON (AP) — U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.

The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November. 

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.

Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last Octoberon the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.

The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.

Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small. 

Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him. 

But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.

In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.

Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.

Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus — and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten. 

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.

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