Hearst and Pulitzer were consumed in a constant media war fueled by sensationalism and reflected in yellow journalism. Current events fell subject as feeders to the tabloid war. One particular event, was a murder that occurred in the summer of 1897.
Dozens of murders happened in New York City in 1897, but none were considered significant by the press until the body parts of William Guldensuppe were found scattered throughout the city, all pieces turning up with the exception of the head.
Known as “The Scattered Dutchman,” this murder of a nobody immigrant quickly became sensationalized headline news in both Hearst’s New York Journal and Pulitzer’s New York World.
Both papers produced many of the clues to the “who dunnit” game by sending reporters to investigate all aspects of the crime. Pulitzer offered his readers rewards in exchange for clues to the murder, and Hearst himself went to the suspected crime scene before police did.
The papers were more on top of the case than the police.
Once the true story of the crime unfolded, the love triangle, the who, what, when and where, media coverage did not stop there. Pulitzer and Hearst both continued to cover and sensationalize the murders, following up with interviews from inside the jail cell to feed their hungry readers.
What was known as the “Scattered Dutchman” should really be renamed the “Sensationalism Dutchman,” as the dismembered body of William Guldensuppee spurred sensationalism crime reporting in New York in 1897, fueling the media war to new proportions.