Journalism - Facts & Directory

Yellow journalism is a belittling force of reference to journalism that features scandal or other unethical or unprofessional practices by news media organizations or journalists. The term came from circulation battles between Joseph Pulitzers New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal from 1895 to about 1898, and can refer specifically to this period. Both papers were accused by critics of arousing strong interest in the news in order to drive up circulation, although the newspapers did serious reporting as well. The New York Press originated the term "Yellow Journalism" in early 1897 to describe the papers of Pulitzer and Hearst. The newspaper did not define the term, and in 1898 simply effectuated, "We called them Yellow because they are Yellow."

Pulitzer and Hearst are responsible for drawing the nation into the Spanish-American War with elaborated stories that were not always told in truth. The majority of Americans did not live in New York City, and the decision makers who did live there more than likely relied more on more settled newspapers like the Times, The Sun or the Post. The best example of the exaggeration is the false story that artist Frederic Remington telegrammed Hearst to tell him that everything was calm and quiet in Cuba and "There will be no war." Hearst responded "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." The story first appeared in the memoirs of reporter James Creelman in 1901, and there is no other source for it.

But Hearst was one who advocated war after a rebellion broke out in Cuba in 1895. Stories of Cuban virtue and Spanish brutality soon dominated his front page. While the accounts were of doubtful accuracy, the newspaper readers of the 19th century did not need, or necessarily want, his stories to be pure nonfiction. Historian Michael Robertson has said that "Newspaper reporters and readers of the 1890s were much less concerned with distinguishing among fact-based reporting, opinion and literature." Pulitzer's treatment in the World emphasizes horrible explosion Hearst's treatment was more effective and focused on the enemy who set the bomb and offered a huge reward to readers.

Pulitzer kept the story on his front page. The yellow press covered the revolution extensively and most often inaccurately, but conditions on Cuba were horrible enough. Journalism historians have said that yellow journalism was largely a topic to New York City, and that newspapers in the rest of the country were not doing the same as they were.. The Journal and the World were not among the top ten sources of news in regional papers, and the stories simply did not make a splash outside of Gotham. War came because public opinion was sickened by the bloodshed, and because conservative leaders like McKinley realized that Spain had lost control of Cuba. These factors weighed more on the president's mind than the melodramas in the New York Journal. Hearst sailed to Cuba, when the invasion started, as a war correspondent, providing accurate accounts of the fighting. Creelman later praised the work of the reporters for exposing the horrors of Spanish misrule, arguing, " no true history of the war can be written without an acknowledgment that whatever of justice and freedom and progress was accomplished by the Spanish-American war was due to the enterprise and tenacity of yellow journalists, many of whom lie in unremembered graves."