Yellow Journalism

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The "Yellow Fever" of Journalism

Yellow Journalism is a term first coined during the famous newspaper wars between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer II.

Pulitzer's paper the New York World and Hearst's New York Journal changed the content of newspapers adding more sensationalized stories and increasing the use of drawings and cartoons.

As more cartoons were being published in newspapers, Pulitzer began to publish a cartoon of his own that he titled "The Yellow Kid" in 1896. The cartoon was created by R.F. Outcault and became one of many objects fought over between Hearst and Pulitzer during their rivalry. Hearst later took Outcault and his cartoon from Pulitzer by offering him an outrageous salary. Pulitzer published another version of the cartoon very similar to "The Yellow Kid" to continue competing with Hearst.

With so much competition between the newspapers, the news was over-dramatized and altered to fit story ideas that publishers and editors thought would sell the most papers and stir the most interest for the public so that news boys could sell more papers on street corners.

They often used the "Yellow Kid" to sensationalize stories and discredit the stories of other newspapers. The "Yellow Kid" was also used to sway public opinion on important issues such as the Spanish-American war. Newspapers of the era did not practice the objectivity that newspapers today strive for.

Many historians believe that Hearst in particular played a major role in the American involvement with Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Hearst saw the war as a prime opportunity to boost his newspaper sales. He was the first newspaper to station a team of reporters in Cuba to monitor the events happening there. Hearst published articles of brutality, cruelty and inadequate care to sway public opinion regarding America's involvement in the war.

Two reporters, Richard Harding Davis and Frederick Remington, were the highest paid reporters for Hearst stationed in Cuba. When Remington sent a telegram telling Hearst that there was not much going on there, Hearst replied with his famous telegram,"You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." This is just a small example of Hearst sensationalized practices(Book # 1 and 2)

Hearst also became very involved with the war itself, after much public swaying through the dramatized stories of his paper, he eventually pushed the President to sign a bill officially entering America into the war.

Ironically, the term "Yellow Journalism" is partly credited to Pulitzer's involvement in the conflict with Hearst. As we are all aware, Pulitzer is now famous for his awards of outstanding journalistic achievement with the Pulitzer Prize. (Check out the Web site Here)

 

Link: The Yellow Kid Cartoon

The historian can be reached at: jennifervance@hotmail.com