REEL OR UNREAL HISTORY
Reading time: 5 minutes
Long before “fake news” wedged itself into American vernacular, “fake” or “engineered” news on film had a powerful influence on democracy and world regimes. A few years ago, one of my history students observed that a film reel of Teddy Roosevelt from the 1915 Panama–California Exposition was shockingly authentic. After viewing the reel, my student reflected on how useful it was to see the world “exactly” as it was lived in history. This response gave me pause. Had I done enough to introduce the reel and complicate it as a primary source? My student accepted the moving images on the screen as pure historical truth. This reflection helped me realize I was missing an opportunity to use newsreels as a teaching tool to engage critical analysis and media literacy in my history classroom.