What is fake news?

“It comes at us from every quarter of the media—old and new—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.” Robert Love, Columbia Journalism Review
H.L. Mencken
Although we appear to have entered a Golden Age of Fake News, fake stories have been passed off as news for a long time in the United States. On December 28, 1917, the New York Evening Mail presented readers with one of the greatest fake news stories up to that time. “A Neglected Anniversary,” by H.L. Mencken was a totally fake history of the bathtub. It may be hard for people to believe that an article about bathtub history could go viral, but it did.
Flashing forward to 1980, Janet Cooke wrote an article for the Washington Post about an 8-year-old heroin addict named Jimmy. The story was heart-breaking. After Cooke won a Pulitzer Prize, people wanted to locate Jimmy so they could help the lad. Unfortunately, there was no Jimmy. Janet had cooked the whole story up.
In 2003, The New York Times disclosed that award-winning reporter Jayson Blair had been a plagiarist and a frequent fabricator.  In his articles, he had a bad habit of inserting quotes from interviews that never took place. According to The Times, there were problems in “at least 36 of the 73 articles Mr. Blair wrote since he started getting national reporting assignments.”
These are but a few examples of fake news in which journalists intentionally misled consumers of the news. Sometimes the media also report fake stories unwittingly. In October of 2009, the Balloon Boy captivated audiences as he reportedly floated through the sky in a balloon. Reporters and TV viewers alike ate the story up. It turned out that Falcon Heene had never even left the ground. He had been safe at home the whole time. It turned out that his parents had pulled off one of the greatest hoaxes in modern history.
Since the turn of the millennium, fake news has been evolving at an accelerated pace. Not so long ago, tabloids including The Weekly World News, which specialized in fake news, could be readily found in many grocery stores. Fake news in print is not as common as it once was, although we still see it occasionally in newspapers and magazines. Now most of the fake news is on the internet. The Onion is the most well-known publisher of fake news, but there are dozens of other online magazines cranking it out.
With some websites, like The Onion, it’s clear that the stories presented are satirical. Nevertheless, there are people who believe the articles. Other websites do a very good job of looking legitimate, and for many readers it is easy to believe the articles. Fake news has become a hot topic. For many readers, it has become difficult to distinguish what’s real and what’s not.
The Fake News Review covers fake news in three helpful ways.
  • By providing analysis of the issues related to fake news.
  • By providing links to intelligent stories about fake news by other writers.
  • By providing links to some of the hottest current fake news stories and labeling those stories as such.

At Fake News Review, we endeavor to be your trusted source for real news about fake news. Look, up in the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s the Balloon Boy riding high once again!

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