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Yellow Journalism: Born from one War, Fueling Others for Decades

Posted by: | September 22, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Yellow Journalism was born in the late nineteenth century out of the competition between publishing moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

Competition between the two came to a peak when Hearst hired the Cartoonist Richard F. Outcault away from Pulitzer after Outcault’s popular cartoon “Hogan’s Alley” boost Pulitzer’s sales.  Outcault’s most popular character from the series, The Yellow Kid, became the inspiration for the name yellow journalism that spurred from the growing media war between Pulitzer and Hearst.


“The Yellow Kid” Image from: http://projects.vassar.edu/1896/nypress.html

This journalistic war relied on sensationalistic headlines to sell more papers than their competitor.  It coincided with the out break of the Spanish-American War, which allowed both moguls to harp on dramatic war stories and personify the war in a way that engrossed the public.  It was certainly the first press driven war, and while yellow journalism has seemingly died out, its sensationalist tactics remain ever present in today’s war correspondence.

Sensationalist headlines today are often seen in relation to and fueling reports of The War on Terror.  Such sensationalist stories have fueled public interest in the war today, just as they did during the Spanish-American War.  They cause us to want to read about it, but also distract us from the real crisis’s today.

What started as a media war became the fuel behind heightened public interest in combat war.  Yellow Journalism has not died, but remains ever present.  As long as there are catchy headlines to be made, the spirit of Outcault’s Yellow Kid will remain alive in journalism.

under: Comm 455
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