In The Confidence-Man, Herman Melville has one character ask another whether a story is true. The answer: “Of course not; it is a story I told with the purpose of every story-teller—to amuse.” Or perhaps, as Paul Maliszewski might add, to enhance the teller’s pocketbook or sense of importance. The author begins Fakers with a confession: while working at a business journal, he submitted a string of pseudonymous articles mocking the politics of that very publication. Subsequently, he became an investigator of fakes, and this book collects his writings on the subject. Less interesting than his explication of fakes long past—for example, the New York Sun’s 1835 lunar hoax—is his pursuit of present-day fakers. What should we make of Joey Skaggs, who created Final Curtain, a pseudo-business plan for cemeteries built as theme parks? In an interview with Maliszewski, Skaggs declares that the journalists he hoodwinked were, like most of their breed, perpetually seeking novelty within the realm of the familiar. The author’s most dramatic encounter is with the novelist Michael Chabon, who has repeatedly delivered a lecture that appears to give him a false personal link to the Holocaust. Maliszewski complains that Chabon has “appropriated the Holocaust for the gravity it exerts and then portrayed it in ways an audience would find comfortable and wholly familiar.” For his critique of Chabon, Maliszewski has received scant thanks. He shouldn’t be surprised by this ingratitude. After all, wasn’t the object (as Melville wrote) to amuse?
11:49 AM - January 23, 2009
Short reviews of books about art on the New York Times’s Op-Ed page, the short life of The Chicagoan, and hoaxes in the news.
#Realtalk: This isn’t another ‘golden age’ for print - But it is one for media
Social media in smaller markets - How three social media managers deal with smaller markets and more local coverage.
A rally for laid-off Sun-Times photogs - A protest Thursday morning drew about 150 picketers to the newspaper’s headquarters
Reporting, or illegal hacking - Scripps reporters are accused of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
Exchange Watch: California Dreaming - Low healthcare premiums on the West Coast were trumpeted as a big, good-news Obamacare story. But: “Compared to what?”
The disappearance of ‘Sports of the Times’
“Millennials need organ transplants that fit easily into their always-connected lifestyles”
A conversation about the dark art of driving the conversation
The Ecuadorean embassy’s celebrity refugee is used to living in what Assange likens to a space station as he battles extradition
On the eve of two related SCOTUS decisions, how should journalists be covering the issue?
Who Owns What
A report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Questions and exercises for journalism students.