I have some Facebook posts from friends who know that I was full-time journalist for some 20 years and a freelance writer for more years than that.  So, they have been expecting me to relate what I think of the new talk about “fake news.”  I can at least tell you that fake news is not new – it is as old as fake leaders, or fake spouses, or fake anything.

I came into being as a professional journalist – that is, one paid in money instead of in cups of coffee – in 1972 when I started work in New York City for Fairchild Publications.  More specifically, I joined the staff of what was then called the flagship paper of Fairchild, Women’s Wear Daily, or how it is better known in the fashion industry as WWD.  That year was also when WWD launched another Fairchild flagship publication called W, and being on the staff of WWD automatically put me on the staff of W.

I started at the lowest possible post at Fairchild Publications for $100 per week, and one of my earliest assignments that first winter was to bring in a box of the current Time Magazine to the desk of John B. Fairchild, the chairman of the company.  That week, John Fairchild had been featured on the cover of Time Magazine for his own creative venture over the past two years in creating Fake News.

Fairchild’s Fake News has concentrated on developing a fashion sensation through his news coverage over a dress called the Midi.  For two entire years, he had used his personal flagship newspaper as a troubadour to proclaim the Midi as the fashion sensation of the new American Flapper Age, etched in his gaudy headlines and spectacular fashion drawings.

Indeed, the Midi did resemble a Flapper dress of the Roaring Twenties – its below-the-knee hem would have would have worked out every contour of dancing the Charleston.  But its sartorial expression was not so much retro as it was a roaring response to what was really happening all over the streets in the year 1970 – the mini dress.

The problem of fashion journalism in those days is that the mini-dresses were largely worn by teenagers – or at least by wearers whose legs were still teen-aged.  But teenagers then and forever were not buying the high-priced name designer apparel that was the bulwark of WWD’s coverage.  Nor really were they ever reading WWD – what do teens care about Paris or Milan couture?

But since the WWD advertising really got nothing from the knock-off manufacturers who were selling mini-skirts off the racks, it was John Fairchild’s idea to use his newspaper to create a fashion war by generating fake news about the popular ascent of the Midi dress, promising to use it to kill the miniskirt.

He did this for two years with his own raving reviews of the runway Midis in his own newspaper. His readers – at least in his fondest dreams – were magnificent dowagers like Bunny Mellon and Jackie Onassis – certainly they were not anyone wearing a miniskirt.  In fact, he did not allow any of his own zippy staff members to even wear a miniskirt into his building.  That would-be fashion treason against him, and he was known to never forget any wrong done against him.

Fairchild’s most creative contribution in this time was in sustaining his fake news for a second year.  Because in spite of all the hoopla he generated for the Midi, and in spite of all the Midis arriving at America’s leading specialty stores from manufacturers who had developed the habit of believing everything Fairchild said, the consumer wasn’t buying it.

What Fairchild managed to do then was convince Seventh Avenue that consumers needed at least a solid year to be educated on the inevitability on the Midi, and so they believed him and they then like total idiots cranked out more Midis for a second year.

It was only after the second year run of all the Midis in the specialty stores being ignored by practically all consumers that Seventh Avenue began to realize that it had been hit by an agenda-driven dose of Fake News.

And yet it made my old boss John Fairchild a new cultural hero, getting him on the cover of Time Magazine, and putting him in league with Orson Welles when Welles was simply an obscure young radio announcer who one night announced to a gullible radio audience that America was suddenly being invaded by Martians.

That was fake news as well.  But it also made Orson Welles an international star.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.