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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Would Welles War of the Worlds radio program play in the age of Social Media?

When the Columbia Broadcasting System broadcast The Mercury Radio Theater’s version of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” Orson Welles managed to convince a portion of his audience that Martians were attacking Earth.  Media reports that followed told of mass hysteria and widespread panic.  Recent research suggests the alleged panic was mostly a media fallacy.

The public radio program Big Picture Science looked into how and why the media of the day created and advanced stories of a frightened public.  As part of their story, they spoke with Katy Culver, associate director of the UW Center for Journalism Ethics about the changing nature of journalism ethics, asking “Can we tweet ‘Mars is attacking!’ with impunity?”

Listen to the broadcast: