What better way to take a stand against disinformation than taking “headlines” seen online, printing them on fake magazine covers and placing them in a mock newsstand?
That’s the route the Columbia Journalism Review took in a project created by TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. The newsstand, which is located on a busy corner near Bryant Park in Manhattan, featured magazine covers with bombastic (and untrue) headlines that had previously gained momentum online.
Inside, CJR made a reader’s guide with tips on how to identify disinformation, such as questioning the source and looking for more information on the topic.
Representatives from the creative team, as well as CJR editor-in-chief Kyle Pope, were on-site to talk with folks about the project.
“We embarked on this initiative to help people spot disinformation,” Pope said in a statement. “For the first time, we’re taking false stories from the digital space into the physical space and placing it directly in the hands of real people. It makes these stories tangible in a way that forces you to think about the source of the information.”
Using similar typography and design, it’s clear that the covers used in this stunt were modeled after big-name publications. A magazine called Hussle, for example, has a headline that reads, “Hollywood Elites Use Baby Blood to Get High!” The Hour teases a story with the headline: “Goodbye America: Trump offers immigrants one-way tickets out of U.S.”
It’s been a tense year between some publishers and platforms, like Facebook, as they navigate how to best separate fact from fiction in people’s news feeds.
That’s an even bigger task, especially given the popularization of the term “fake news” frequently used by President Trump on the 2016 presidential campaign and during his time in office to describe accurate reporting from news outlets, all while completely false items gain traction online.
Not only is it tough on social platforms, but it’s also confusing for media consumers.
Of American adults surveyed after the 2016 presidential election, 64 percent said fabricated new stories caused confusion about basic facts and current events, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
The fake newsstand on Tuesday was inspired by an ad campaign, called “Real Journalism Matters” and developed by CJR and TBWA/Chiat/Day New York, that made its debut earlier this year.
“Seeing these outrageous stories elevated to the front pages of what appear to be reputable publications should be jarring and remind people of the dangers of misinformation, especially as we head into the midterms,” said Chris Beresford-Hill, chief creative officer of TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, in a statement. “The newsstand and its contents emphasize the crucial importance of well-sourced news and the trusted journalists and outlets that produce it.”