Despite all the hoopla about “fake news” — President Obama has denounced it and Facebook has pledged to rein in websites that spread it — the phenomenon is not new.
In the U.S., what today might be considered propaganda or fake news was commonly accepted practice in the late 18th and 19th centuries, said Andie Tucher, a historian and journalism professor at Columbia University.
“Newspapers were very political in the early years of the republic,” Tucher said. “There was no understanding and no expectation that news should be impartial. News was the thing that expressed opinion.”
As technology and the means of dissemination evolved,...