Semester of Graduation

Spring 2023


Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type



“Fake news” is a malleable concept. It can be beaten and reshaped to fit many different contexts. One widely accepted definition of fake news is false information purporting itself to be factual. Another is information that is factual but called “fake” in order to discredit it. Concern over the spread of fake news increased in recent years. But preoccupation with what is happening today has left a gap in our understanding of the phenomenon, specifically its roots in the past. “Fake news” was present when news technology was relatively primitive; it is not essentially a function of such modern advancements as cable programming and the internet. To analyze the antecedents to modern fake news, I reviewed 500 newspaper articles printed between 1880 and 1920. I created five categories to distinguish various intents for using the term—financial gain, character assassination, war tactic, newspaper rivalry, and quackery. The analysis showed that the news media often used the term to discredit their competition and claim their authority over the truth, as is the case today.



Committee Chair

Hamilton, John Maxwell