The press said anything about the sinking of the Titanic, proven evidence of fake news

In 1912, the Titanic sank, killing 1,500 people.

The press said anything about the sinking of the Titanic, proven evidence of fake news

In 1912, the Titanic sank, killing 1,500 people. We now know that a lot of fake news has circulated in the press about the unfolding of this tragedy.

On April 15, 1912, a gigantic liner, which was to connect Southampton to New York, hit an iceberg in the middle of the night. In less than three hours, the boat sank, carrying 1,500 people in freezing water. About 700 others will survive. An event popularized in a James Cameron film in 1997, the sinking of the Titanic has remained one of the greatest maritime disasters in history.

As soon as the tragedy becomes known, the media will obviously rush to the subject to release information as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there was a lot of fake news at the time, going so far as to give false hope to the families of the victims. As a very detailed archival study conducted by the Library of Virginia recently showed, several media outlets initially claimed that there were no deaths. The Daily Mail published "no lives lost" and the Reno Evening Gazette initially assured that "passengers were safe." Same story from the Belfast Telegraph, with, in its content: “No risk of loss of life”.

The French media did the same. Le Petit Parisien, then very popular, reported on April 16, a day after the tragedy: "The largest liner in the world hit an iceberg off Newfoundland. But fortunately we were able to save the 2,358 people who were on board", as Libération reported very recently, thanks to BNF archives. L'Humanité also headlined "the Titanic against an iceberg. Two thousand passengers almost perished." The same day, Le Figaro, a press institution, wrote: “Fortunately, its 1,600 passengers are safe and sound. They were picked up aboard several boats that came to their aid.”

How can we explain such a mess? Several elements could have disrupted communication in the days following the sinking. First of all, for France in particular, there is the time difference and the difficulty of transatlantic communication at the time. The company to which the Titanic belongs only confirmed that the boat had sunk with casualties at 6 p.m. on April 15, i.e. in the middle of the night in France, not allowing the French newspapers to correct the situation for April 16 . A lying telegram also circulated in the United States assuring that the Titanic was “on its way to Halifax”. “The passengers will probably arrive there on Wednesday. All are safe and sound,” he added. For the American press, it was more of a race for information causing a risk of confusion in the messages received in a hurry as well as a lack of verification.

It was not until April 17 that the truth was reestablished everywhere. The testimonies of the survivors then followed one another and made this sinking an event which remains in the memories, even 112 years later.