Nothing new about ‘pretend information’: Mark Twain and others penned phony newspaper tales in Virginia Metropolis

When readers see the names Mark Twain and Dan De Quille, pretend information will not be the very first thing that involves thoughts. However these legendary journalists had been among the many unique pretend information writers in Nevada’s early years—a reality spotlighted in Richard Moreno’s new e-book, Frontier Faux Information: Nevada’s Sagebrush Hoaxsters and Humorists.

Martin Griffith, veteran Nevada observer and Related Press journalist from 1985-2015, wrote: “Moreno is among the main and most skilled writers on Nevada historical past, and he did a masterful job of telling the story of those gifted, quirky writers. [He] presents them in full, residing coloration, warts and all. I liked this e-book!”

Richard Moreno was the longtime writer of Nevada Journal. He’s the creator of fourteen books, together with Nevada Myths and Legends, Roadside Historical past of Nevada and A Quick Historical past of Reno. For greater than three many years, he was written a weekly journey/historical past column for the Lahontan Valley Information and Nevada Attraction. In 2007, Moreno was awarded the Nevada Writers Corridor of Fame Silver Pen Award. He presently lives within the state of Washington, however will at all times name Nevada his dwelling.

Excerpt: True Confession Time

I’ve a confession. Within the mid-Nineteen Eighties, shortly after I had traded in my press card for a press equipment, I learn a duplicate of the revived Territorial Enterprise and Virginia Metropolis Information, the well-known former dwelling of Mark Twain and Dan De Quille, which acknowledged that the Comstock-based newspaper needed to resuscitate the rollicking spirit and traditions of its early days. I knew, in fact, that Twain and others on the Enterprise had been well-known for his or her hoaxes—what right now we’d name real pretend information. Plus, I actually, actually needed to jot down an article in that very same vein and to publish it within the legendary newspaper.

So, I wrote a pretend press launch. In it, I mentioned {that a} mining firm, which I referred to as United Minerals Consolidated Ltd., had lately introduced plans to buy all of Virginia Metropolis with a view to take away the whole neighborhood and dig the largest open-pit mine within the state. I made up a pretend president for my pretend mining firm, Winslow P. Patterson, and quoted him as saying that testing had indicated the presence of huge gold and silver sources beneath the city, which might solely be recovered by relocating or eradicating the neighborhood.

I believed the story would appear considerably believable as a result of an actual mining firm with the same title—United Mining Company—had been actively working within the Comstock space for a number of years, and there had been some speak that they needed to revive underground mining within the area, which could embody reopening mining tunnels situated beneath town. In the identical approach that Twain sought to make use of his hoaxes to side-eye his private and political targets, my objective was to make use of satire and exaggeration to make a press release concerning the fragile nature of Virginia Metropolis, a neighborhood that I’ve liked deeply for a very long time.

In an try and make the proposal much more absurd, I wrote that Patterson had a ridiculous plan calling for United Minerals to arrange a desk on the nook of C and Union Streets in Virginia Metropolis, the place the corporate would supply money on the spot to anybody wishing to promote their property. “Nevada mining legislation permits us to sentence and purchase any property we would like,” I quoted Patterson as saying, then including, “We can pay market charges for all property however received’t be afraid to sentence parcels owned by individuals reluctant to half with them.”

The discharge famous that the desk can be arrange from 8 a.m. to five p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for 2 weeks in early November, and it asserted that any land not bought throughout that stretch can be acquired utilizing “authorized condemnation proceedings.” It additionally mentioned that United Minerals was a Delaware-based mining firm and that its plans included razing the downtown, changing the Fourth Ward Faculty into mining firm workplaces, and rebuilding the previous Virginia & Truckee Railroad line to hold ore from the pit to a brand new Southern Pacific Railroad line being constructed to Carson Metropolis. The discharge concluded with a press release from Patterson saying that the corporate was additionally contemplating buying the entire adjoining neighborhood of Gold Hill with a view to dig a second, big, open-pit mine at a later date.

I recall typing up my pretend information launch, putting it a generic, white envelope with a pretend deal with, after which driving to Reno, NV, to mail it, in order that it could not be despatched from Carson Metropolis, the place I used to be residing on the time. I despatched it anonymously as a result of, whereas I used to be sort of happy with my hoax, I wasn’t positive if anybody else would discover it as humorous as I did—and I didn’t wish to get fired from the state public relations job I had on the time.

A number of weeks later, I picked up the October 18, 1985, version of the Enterprise and noticed my little launch printed on web page 9. Naturally, I believed it was nice, so I instantly typed up a follow-up pretend launch. This time, I wrote that in response to native protests about United Minerals’ plans for Virginia Metropolis, the mining firm had compromised and determined to solely buy and raze half of the historic metropolis. In response to my invented president, Winslow P. Patterson, the mining firm would purchase “the entire property east of C Avenue…. The remainder of the neighborhood will stay on the mountainside overlooking the pit.” He mentioned the mining firm would construct an eight-foot-high concrete wall alongside the east facet of C Avenue to guard residents from the pit’s mining operations. The discharge concluded by saying that when the open-pit mine is now not productive, the mining firm “plans to transform it into a rustic membership and marina to be referred to as ‘Rancho Virginia.’”

As earlier than, I mailed the information launch anonymously to the paper after which waited to see if this one can be printed too. I didn’t have to attend lengthy. The lead story on the entrance web page of the December 13 challenge carried the headline: “United Minerals Revises VC Open Pit Plan.” Beneath the headline and above the story, which took up a lot of the entrance web page, was a three-column-wide picture of some unnamed mining operation (I had not included a photograph, so the paper had provided its personal).

Inside the problem, an editorial titled “Deny United Minerals” lifted the hoax to a complete new stage. “United Minerals, a mining conglomerate hiding within the company wilds of Delaware, plans to raze downtown Virginia Metropolis, and so create the biggest open pit eyesore ever tried in Nevada,” the editorial mentioned indignantly. “As anticipated the hue and cry on the heels of this insane announcement has touched off a fireplace storm of protest all around the west.”

And with that, I made a decision to observe Twain’s lead after considered one of his hoaxes obtained out of hand and he departed Virginia Metropolis. I, too, “disappeared.” I by no means despatched one other story to the Enterprise, which, maybe not coincidentally, ceased publishing about two weeks later (it first unsuccessfully tried to grow to be {a magazine} earlier than utterly folding), and I by no means spoke of my hoax to anybody.

Excerpt from Frontier Faux Information: Nevada’s Sagebrush Hoaxsters and Humorists is printed with permission of the creator and writer.