Want to know a secret about ‘fake news’? It’s nothing new

truth behind fake news


I’ve worked in and studied public relations (PR) for over 15 years. But I experienced more interest in my work in the early part of 2017 than ever before. And I think that’s the Trump effect.

Friends, family and frankly most people I meet seem to have found new interest in current affairs. Not surprising in itself, it happens in times of turmoil. But all the talk about fake news seems to have sparked interest in the workings of the media. Online news in particular.

I’m pleased people are beginning to become aware of fake news. It might make them more conscious of what they waste their time and energy reading and worrying about.

And if it puts a stop to people trusting what they read on Facebook then better still. 

Want to know more about where fake news comes from? Then read on:


Early in my PR education I learnt about the history of the industry and the workings of the media. In particular about press agentry and publicity. And propaganda, that is ‘often misleading and biased information to support a political point of view.’

But what does this dull theory stuff have to do with fake news? Well everything. It explains that the truth behind fake news is – IT’S NOT A NEW THING.

It’s always been the case that questionable content has appeared in the media. But now there’s more of it.

Because the digital world we’re used to offers products and service on demand we seek the same of our news sources. We want updates and new things 24/7. Our news sources have to struggle provide this and sometimes rubbish quality news is the consequence.


This environment works well for celebrities. They’ve always created their own kind of news to get themselves in front of the public. But now a mundane social media post is enough to generate a news story.

They no longer need to demonstrate real talent to get talked about. Quite the opposite. Gossip, rumours and bitchiness are forms of entertainment (for some people!) and such stories feed these.

The difference now is that the internet has increased its spread and given new people ways to make money from it.

Now people can package fake and exaggerated stories in their own ‘news’ websites. They attract people with sensationalist headlines in the hope that you’ll click on adverts while you’re visiting. And I’m not just talking the Daily Mail here. Eastern European teenagers are earning a living from fake news sites set up in their bedrooms. 


Many other PR experts have given excellent opinions on dealing with fake news.  Instead I’m going to suggest something slightly more entertaining.

10 things to read or watch to learn more about the truth behind fake news:

  1. Flat Earth News by Nick Davies – understand more about the pressures of the internet and digital publishing on newspapers
  2. Tabloid Girl by Sharon Marshall – the memoirs of a tabloid newspaper reporter
  3. Wicked Whispers – Confessions of a Gossip Queen by Jessica Callan – a former ‘3am Girl’ gossip columnist for the Daily Mirror. Mentioned in the phone hacking inquiry, linked to Piers Morgan
  4. The Celeb Diaries by Mark Frith – former editor of Heat Magazine offers insight into celebrity news stories
  5. Hack by Graham Johnson – memoirs of another tabloid journalist. One who created a fake Beast of Bodmin Moor. And was sentenced for phone hacking
  6. The Insider: Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade by Piers Morganfake photos cost him his job as a newspaper editor (please buy second-hand so he doesn’t profit!)
  7. Read All About It by Max Clifford – many accounts of trading stories with journalists and setting up situations for media coverage (again please buy second-hand!)
  8. Confessions of a paparazzi – a Channel 4 documentary showing how fake news is created and sold by one paparazzi photographer
  9. Nightcrawler – movie in which Jake Gyllenhal becomes a freelance crime video journalist and sets up news events
  10. In the Loop – a satirical, political, comedy movie which includes ‘leaking documents’ to the media to create news

See also: My Year Ripping Off the Web with the Mail Online – a former Daily Mail Online journalist’s account of working there.

I wrote this article so that when people ask me about the truth behind fake news, or my opinions, I have somewhere to point them. There are so many more things I could talk about relating to this. I’ll share them on Twitter for now – follow me there @amywardlaw.

Main image: Duncan C 

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