Lies! Today, they spread everywhere instantly thanks to the internet, that wondrous web of computers full of lies. That's how a fake rumor about Steve Jobs having a heart attack can momentarily cost Apple billions of dollars in market cap. But don't blame the internet—blame the inherently wicked hearts of mankind. Because people have been running these same types of media scams to manipulate financial markets for at least 144 years:

IN 1864, back when rumor still traveled by foot, a young messenger walked into the newsrooms of New York City’s press row with an Associated Press bulletin that President Lincoln had ordered the conscription of 400,000 additional troops for the Union. The news arrived at a precarious time for the newspapers — around 2 a.m. Even the night editors had left, forcing a skeleton crew to decide whether to rush something into the paper, or risk being scooped. Two papers took the bait on what soon was exposed as a hoax.

The news drove the price of gold up, which was the point for the people who had planted the rumor. What can we learn from this? Don't trust anything, unless it comes directly from the mouth of a PR person. [NYT]