Written by Cleveland Ferguson III, last updated on December 2, 2023
Publisher William Randolph Hearst, right, is interviewed by reporters, Nov. 7, 1935, on his return to "my home state of New York" due to Californian income taxes. Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal, and rival Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, are credited with the creation of yellow journalism in the late 1800s. (AP Photo, used with permission from the Associated Press)
Yellow journalism usually refers to sensationalistic or biased stories that newspapers present as objective truth.
Established late 19th-century journalists coined the term to belittle the unconventional techniques of their rivals. Although Eric Burns (2006) demonstrated that the press in early America could be quite raucous, yellow journalism is generally perceived to be a late 1800s phenomenon full of lore and spin, fact and fiction, tall tales, and large personalities.
Yellow journalism marked by sensationalist stories, self-promotion
William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal, and his arch-rival, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, are credited with the creation of yellow journalism.
Such journalism had the following characteristics:
the use of multicolumn headlines, oversized pictures, and dominant graphics;
front-page stories that varied from sensationalist to salacious in the same issue;
one-upmanship, or the scooping of stories, only later to be embarrassed into retractions (usually by a competing publication);
jingoism, or the inflaming of national sentiments through slanted news stories, often related to Civil War;
extensive use of anonymous sources by overzealous reporters especially in investigative stories on “big-business,” famous people, or political figures;
self-promotion within the news medium; and
pandering to the so-called hoi polloi, especially by using the newspaper layout to cater to immigrants for whom English was not their first language.
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