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Worldview

Fake News: A Lesson From The Past

The latest media buzzword is “fake news,” especially in the era of social media savvy, President Donald Trump - but the concept is not new. Between World Wars I and II, journalism often fueled ideological battles - with bloody consequences. Gareth Jones was a Welsh journalist who navigated reporting between a rising Nazi Germany and a growingly-legitimate Soviet Union. In 1933, he snuck into the USSR and witnessed a widespread genocidal famine (Holodomor). In 1935, Jones was murdered under suspicious circumstances. 

At the same time, The New York Times ran headlines denying the famine. Times’ foreign correspondent and Pulitzer prize-winner Walter Duranty, a confidante of Josef Stalin’s, publicly shunned Jones. Though millions died, The New York Times only retracted Duranty’s stories in 2003. His Pulitzer still stands. To discuss what he calls “the first case of fake news in modern journalism,” we’re joined by archivist Nigel Colley, Gareth Jones’ great-nephew.

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