You know that thing about the 1938 War of the Worlds radio show causing widespread panic?

You know that thing about the 1938 War of the Worlds radio show causing widespread panic?

There was no such panic.

That expression "Fake News" which is currently tossed around, while that is of debatable reality the widespread panic reported about the radio show literally and documentably really was fake news, with at least some of it created in the name of competitive marketing.
The Halloween myth of the War of the Worlds panic
By Professor W Joseph Campbell American University, Washington DC
30 October 2011
"Close reading of contemporaneous newspaper reports also reveals the fright that night was highly exaggerated.
Newspapers presented sweeping claims about thousands or even millions of panic-stricken Americans, but offered little supporting documentation.
Most newspapers printed dispatches sent by wire services such as the Associated Press, which extrapolated widespread fear from small numbers of scattered, anecdotal accounts."
See also:
Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 radio program did not touch off nationwide hysteria. Why does the legend persist?
By Jefferson Pooley and Michael J. Socolow
Oct 28, 2013
How did the story of panicked listeners begin? Blame America’s newspapers. Radio had siphoned off advertising revenue from print during the Depression, badly damaging the newspaper industry. So the papers seized the opportunity presented by Welles’ program to discredit radio as a source of news. The newspaper industry sensationalized the panic to prove to advertisers, and regulators, that radio management was irresponsible and not to be trusted. In an editorial titled “Terror by Radio,” the New York Times reproached “radio officials” for approving the interweaving of “blood-curdling fiction” with news flashes “offered in exactly the manner that real news would have been given.” Warned Editor and Publisher, the newspaper industry’s trade journal, “The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which has yet to prove … that it is competent to perform the news job.”
See also:
In the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, analysts in Princeton’s Office of Radio Research, working under the direction of Professor Hadley Cantril, sought to verify a rumour that several people had been treated for shock at St Michael’s Hospital in Newark, NJ after the programme. The rumour was found to be false. In addition, when they surveyed six New York City hospitals in December 1938, they found that “none of them had any record of any cases brought in specifically on account of the broadcast”. A Washington Post claim that a man died of a heart attack brought on by listening to the programme was never verified. Police records for New Jersey did show an increase in calls on the night of the show. However, in the preface to his textbook Introduction to Collective Behaviour, academic David Miller points out that: "Some people called to find out where they could go to donate blood. Some callers were simply angry that such a realistic show was allowed on the air, while others called CBS to congratulate Mercury Theatre for the exciting Halloween programme".

On the evening of October 30, 1938, most people tuning into radio were in fact listening to the highly popular Chase and Sanborn Hour, a comedy variety show hosted by the ventriloquist Edgar Bergin, which was airing at the same time as War of the Worlds on competing radio station, NBC. The radio ratings survey firm CE Hopper Company were, coincidentally, conducting a telephone poll that night of approximately five thousand households. They asked: "To what programme are you listening?” Only two per cent of people said they were listening to The War of the Worlds. In addition, several key CBS affiliate radio stations (including Boston’s WEEI) decided to carry local commercial shows rather than Welles's programme, further shrinking its audience. Frank Stanton, later president of CBS, said that CBS were never censored for The War of the Worlds, admitting: "In the first place, most people didn't hear the show."


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