Sensationalism over Facts

Yellow Journalism born of exaggerated, often fabricated stories

Camryn Cooney , Chief Entertainment Editor

Dating back to the 19th century, Yellow Journalism has evolved into something that journalists never want to face — fake news.
It started with two popular newspaper publishers, Joseph Pulitzer [left] and William Randolph Hearst [right], both had newspapers in the state of New York. At first, the concept of Yellow Journalism came from a cartoon published in Pulitzer’s newspaper.
Since all the attention was on Pulitzer’s publication, Hearst was deprived of money and wanted all the recognition for himself. He hired Richard F. Outcault, the artist who drew the “Yellow Kid” cartoon and then used him to get rid of Pulitzer’s audience. This caused a major rivalry between the two men, and in an attempt to regain fame, Pulitzer hired a new cartoonist to continue drawing the famous cartoon. This dispute eventually led to the term yellow journalism.
The official definition of yellow journalism is journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration; however, what started with a cartoon erupted into a legacy of half-truths [or no truth at all], over-the-top headlines and tabloid topics.
The most popular instance of this would be during the Spanish-American War and the two men were so thirsty for selling stories that they published ones that were later proven to include false information.
“The peak of yellow journalism, in terms of both intensity and influence, came in early 1898, when a U.S. battleship, the Maine, sunk in Havana harbor,” according to the United States State Department’s website. “The naval vessel had been sent there not long before in a display of U.S. power and, in conjunction with the planned visit of a Spanish ship to New York, an effort to defuse growing tensions between the United States and Spain.
On the night of February 15, an explosion tore through the ship’s hull, and the Maine went down. Sober observers and an initial report by the colonial government of Cuba concluded that the explosion had occurred on board, but Hearst and Pulitzer, published rumors of plots to sink the ship. When a U.S. naval investigation later stated that the explosion had come from a mine in the harbor, the proponents of yellow journalism seized upon it and called for war. By early May, the Spanish-American War had begun.

Public Domain

The rise of yellow journalism helped to create a climate conducive to the outbreak of international conflict and the expansion of U.S. influence overseas, but it did not by itself cause the war. In spite of Hearst’s often quoted statement — ‘You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!’— other factors played a greater role in leading to the outbreak of war.”
While there are many factors which contributed to this war, there is a lesson in the power of journalism and keeping it an honorable, objective profession that adheres to strong ethical foundations with integrity.
Back then, and even still today, the public would believe anything that the newspapers would publish because there is an element of trust. The community assumed that they knew the facts based on research, interviewing and fact checking, and that whatever was published must reflect that.
In today’s world, some will believe everything they find on the internet or on social media; conversely, some believe nothing they see/read in the media because of yellow journalism practices.
Yellow journalism is a dated term; however, it is still a very important topic not just to journalists, but the whole world. Certain journalistic rules as libel and ethical principles exist for a reason.
That is not to say that commentary, opinion or even fiction does not have its place in a magazine — as long as it is clearly labeled as such.