TBWA\CHIAT\DAY, New York / COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW / 2019
The spread of misinformation is a real problem: 1 in 4 Americans say they’ve shared propaganda online and two-thirds believe “fake news” influenced the 2016 election.
As the 2018 midterm elections approached, the Columbia Journalism Review wanted to confront Americans about the veracity of the news they were reading and sharing online. They wanted to emphasize the importance of seeking out real news from credible journalists, and to empower the electorate with steps they can take to be better informed.
We made fake news tangible for the first time ever. We put sensationalized headlines from the Internet on the covers of what looked like real newspapers and magazines, and we distributed them at a newsstand in New York City. We conceived and crafted more than 20 original newspapers and magazines. Each had a unique name and layout inspired by a real publication. We meticulously designed each cover to look as real as possible. Each fake publication contained an insert that explained how to spot false news, prompting people to question what they were reading.
The Fake News Stand’s primary audience were people who read and share news online. The spread of misinformation and fabricated news stories has gained substantial ground in the past few years, largely due to the rise of social media; according to one study, unverified stories were 70% more likely to be retweeted than real news.
There was also a secondary audience: news publishers, who have a responsibility to disseminate credible, accurate and unbiased information to the masses. Our message to them was that they, too, must take responsibility for the content they publish. The media took tremendous interest in the project, and many major news outlets devoted articles and in-depth coverage to our one-day installation.
We created more than 20 original newspapers and magazines. Each had a unique name and layout inspired by a real publication.
Every headline was sourced from the Internet, where it had been widely shared. By putting these misleading headlines on seemingly reputable publications, our intention was to make misinformation tangible in order to confront people with the very real problem of false news.
The placement of the Fake News Stand was highly strategic, located on one of the most highly trafficked corners in Manhattan: 42nd and 6th Avenue. The newsstand stood directly in the paths of hundreds of thousands of tourists, residents and commuters.
CJR’s staff stood nearby the news stand and engaged each person who approached it. Our publications and the inserts were distributed for free — everyone who interacted with the Fake Newsstand got the full story behind it, and they left with something they could keep.
Though the Fake Newsstand was a physical space, our intention was to attract interest amongst online audiences through PR and earned news coverage. The attention we received exceeded our expectations: our project generated more than 300 real news stories in over 100 countries, reaching as many as two billion people.
TBWA\CHIAT\DAY, New york
2023, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW
TBWA\CHIAT\DAY, New york
2020, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW