Sensationalism in the United States began with the creation of The Penny Press. Like the name suggests, penny press papers cost one penny per paper. This made news accessible to the lower class for the first time. It didn’t take long for journalists to realize that this new “penny-audience” was not interested in the same kind of news that their educated American counterparts were interested in. In an attempt to increase readership, the Penny Press began to cover crime, divorce and other court stories. This was they type of news that interested the “penny-audience,” or the middle and lower class.
The next rise of Sensationalism can be seen in the 1890’s with the start of the Spanish-American War. This war is seen as the first “media” or “press-driven” war in America. Sensationalized news stories about the conflict between America and Spain increased American support which propelled the conflict into war.
Perhaps the most common form of sensationalism, the tabloid, was created during the 1920s. These tabloids were composed of scandalous crime, sex, and money articles that relied heavily on photography rather than quality writing. This is most similar to the sensationalism that is seen in modern-day journalism.