A True History of Fake News

Daily spin newspaperJon Stewart's parody news show may make him "the most trusted name in fake news," but these days it "comes at us from every quarter of the media," writes journalism professor Robert Love — "not just as satire but disguised as the real thing, secretly paid for by folks who want to remain in the shadows. And though much of it is clever, it's not all funny." Love recounts some of the memorable frauds that have filled newspaper pages in the past: the New York Sun's Great Moon Hoax of 1835, Mark Twain's "petrified man," and H.L. Mencken's fabricated 75th anniversary of the bathtub. More recently, he notes, video news releases and pundits-for-hire like Armstrong Williams have ushered in an era where new technologies make it "easier to deliver the news and also easier to fake it," while "falling circulation, diminishing news budgets, and dismantled staffs" have given "third-party players — government, industry, politicians, you name 'em — sleeker weapons and greater power to turn the authority of the press to their own ends: to disseminate propaganda, disinformation, advertising, politically strategic misinformation — to in effect use the media to distort reality."