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 May Pardon Military Men Accused Or Convicted Of War Crimes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for files to be prepared on pardoning several U.S. military members accused of or convicted of war crimes, including one slated to stand trial on charges of shooting unarmed civilians while in Iraq, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
Trump requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed, indicating he is considering pardons for the men around Memorial Day on May 27, the report said, citing two unnamed U.S. officials. Assembling pardon files normally takes months, but the Justice Department has pressed for the work to be completed before that holiday weekend, one of the officials said.
One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, scheduled to stand trial in coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.
Also believed to be included is the case of Major Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, the Times said.
Reuters could not immediately identify a way to contact Gallagher and Golsteyn.
The newspaper reported that the cases of other men are believed to be included in the paperwork, without naming them.
The Department of Justice declined to comment on the report, while the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Legal experts cited in the report said that pardoning several accused and convicted war criminals, including some who have not yet gone to trial, has not been done in recent history, and some worried such pardons could erode the legitimacy of military law.
Trump Administration Considers Flying Migrants Across Country to Relieve Border Crowding
The Trump administration may begin flying asylum-seeking families at the southern U.S. border across the country to have their initial claims processed, a Customs and Border Protection official said Friday.
For months, immigration authorities have been shuttling newly arrested migrants—mostly families and children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—between border stations as facilities have become overwhelmed. Migrants have routinely been bussed hundreds of miles from the border in Southern California or El Paso, Texas, to as far away as Tucson, Ariz., before authorities process and then release them to aid groups.
Now, plans are being laid for the air transportation of parents and children out of overcrowded stations to other locations in the U.S., including northern and coastal states with Border Patrol offices that have capacity, if the flow of families doesn’t diminish, the CBP official said.
“This is an emergency. The entire system is overwhelmed,” the official said. “We are just trying to safely get them out of our facilities as quickly as possible.”
Border Patrol officials have flown nearly 1,000 migrants from overcrowded processing centers and stations in the Rio Grande Valley to nearby Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego since last Friday, another U.S. official said Friday.
The private, contracted flights have cost between $21,000 and $65,000 each and can carry a maximum of 135 people, that official said.
Mark Bogen, the mayor of Broward County in South Florida said Friday that he was told by local law-enforcement to expect as many as 135 migrants to be flown to the area and released by the Border Patrol after their asylum claims are processed.
Mr. Bogen said Broward County doesn’t have the resources to manage such an influx and that its shelters are already crowded with homeless local residents.
“We don’t know if these are seniors or kids,” he said of the potential migrant arrivals. “We were provided one thing: the number 135.”
The CBP official said no migrants were currently being flown to Florida. “We are in preliminary planning stages,” the official said.
The Trump administration contends that the record number of adults with children presenting themselves for asylum has brought the border infrastructure to a breaking point. CBP said on Friday that the agency had averaged 4,500 apprehensions per day over the preceding week. Some 248,000 migrants travelling as families illegally entered the U.S. between October, the start of the federal fiscal year, and April—more than in any prior full year.
Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have blamed President Trump for exacerbating the flood of families to the southern border by cutting aid to Central America and threatening to close the border altogether.
The White House is seeking $4.5 billion in emergency border funding from Congress along with changes to asylum laws that the Trump administration says would make it easier to detain families longer, process applications more quickly, and deter more people from making the journey to the U.S.
Democratic lawmakers have refused to fund asylum policies they consider inhumane, but indicated late Thursday that they would consider funding some of the administration’s requests, making a counteroffer that excludes funding for detention beds, a Congressional aide said.
(Reporting by Wall Street Journal)
Trump Administration Rejects Subpoena For Tax Returns
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is missing another deadline to produce President Donald Trump’s tax returns. A top House Democrat says he expects to take the administration to court as early as next week over the matter.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says in a letter Friday that he will not comply with the subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years of Trump’s tax returns because the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
Mnuchin’s rejection of the subpoena had been expected. Earlier Friday, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal had said, “We will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week.”
Democrats are seeking Trump’s tax returns under a 1924 law that directs the IRS to furnish such information to the chairs of Congress’ tax-writing committees.
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