MI author: 1930s radio hoax is cautionary tale for social media age

Jun 23, 2015

Brad Schwartz was 23 years when he co-wrote a PBS American Experience documentary on the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ radio sci-fi thriller, “The War of the Worlds.” He was the same age as Welles when the production aired in 1938. Now, Schwartz has published a book on the classic hoax. Current State’s Kevin Lavery talks with the Okemos native about his work.

In a time historians call the "golden age" of radio, few people captivated their audiences like Orson Welles. His 1938 production of the H.G. Wells novel "The War of the Worlds" thrust millions of people into panic, as he spun a tale of a Martian invasion.

Okemos native Brad Schwartz grew up listening to old recordings like "War of the Worlds." Two years ago, he co-wrote a PBS documentary on the 75th anniversary of the broadcast. Now, Schwartz has written a new book on the classic 1930s hoax.

The book dives deep into the newsgathering world of the 1930’s to explore how even “authentic” journalism wasn’t really what it seemed. In studying "The War of the Worlds," Schwartz pored over hundreds of letters written to Orson Welles after the broadcast, and he began to peer into the collective psyche of a nation.