Several well-known anecdotes in journalism have their roots in hoaxes—those dubious, inventive, and diverting tales that have buffeted the news media from time to time over the decades. Prominent media hoaxes have included published reports about exotic life on the Moon, about an 8-year-old heroin addict in Washington, DC, and about a 15-year-old computer hacker turned extortionist.

Media hoaxes can be thought of as dramatic, outrageous, clever, or sensational inventions (Boese, 2002, p. 2). They are deliberate deceptions circulated, wittingly or otherwise, by news outlets or propelled by digital media. Typically, they are calculated fabrications bearing familiar markers of legitimate news reports. In prominent cases, hoaxes have ruined reputations, brought upheaval to newsrooms, and lingered in the popular consciousness as reminders of media credulity and ...

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