The Spanish-American War is often referred to as the first "media war." During the 1890s, journalism that sensationalized—and sometimes even manufactured—dramatic events was a powerful force that helped propel the United States into war with Spain. Led by newspaper owners William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, journalism of the 1890s used melodrama, romance, and hyperbole to sell millions of newspapers--a style that became known as yellow journalism.
The term yellow journalism came from a popular New York World comic called "Hogan's Alley," which featured a yellow-dressed character named the "the yellow kid." Determined to compete with Pulitzer's World in every way, rival New York Journal owner William Randolph Hearst copied Pulitzer's sensationalist style and even hired "Hogan's Alley" artist R.F. Outcault away from the World. In response, Pulitzer commissioned another cartoonist to create a second yellow kid. Soon, the sensationalist press of the 1890s became a competition between the "yellow kids," and the journalistic style was coined "yellow journalism."
Yellow journals like the New York Journal and the New York World relied on sensationalist headlines to sell newspapers. William Randolph Hearst understood that a war with Cuba would not only sell his papers, but also move him into a position of national prominence. From Cuba, Hearst's star reporters wrote stories designed to tug at the heartstrings of Americans. Horrific tales described the situation in Cuba--female prisoners, executions, valiant rebels fighting, and starving women and children figured in many of the stories that filled the newspapers. But it was the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor that gave Hearst his big story--war. After the sinking of the Maine, the Hearst newspapers, with no evidence, unequivocally blamed the Spanish, and soon U.S. public opinion demanded intervention.
Today, historians point to the Spanish-American War as the first press-driven war. Although it may be an exaggeration to claim that Hearst and the other yellow journalists started the war, it is fair to say that the press fueled the public's passion for war. Without sensational headlines and stories about Cuban affairs, the mood for Cuban intervention may have been very different. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the United States emerged as a world power, and the U.S. press proved it's influence.
The Delta News and Review recently chastised The Contra Costa Times for "Yellow Journalism" in reporting falsely that the Isleton chamber of Commerce was not legal, nor the Cajun Festival. The damage they did with that story and it's affiliates that ran the same story, was considerable in affecting attendance to the Isleton Cajun festival.
Now we see that the Sacramento Bee reporting on the Grand Jury report also prefers the color "Yellow." With innuendo that laws were "bent" and other such yellow sensationalism, one can see the cycle repeating in daily newspapers that occurred during the "first media war" that came out of fierce competition between newspapers.
This time however it is the "dying throes" of print news that is instigating yellow sensationalism trying to stay alive in the ever declining world of the mainstream media model that is irrelevant and archaic, yet they refuse to conform to a public that sees right through their slanted agenda's and vested interests which does not include their readership.
The days are gone where news shapes the people. People are shaping the news because we now live in a 21st century "wired world." We can check our news media against all the media outlets in the world with a click of the mouse and see what they are reporting and what they are not reporting, and it does not take rocket scientists to see whose agenda...our media is slanting for and whose pocket they are in.
The people are no longer "sheeple" who can be manipulated and molded with fear mongering "buzz words" and cliches. Seventy percent of the American public get their news online in abbreviated headlines and synopsis and later decide what they will research and read in depth after a busy day where they are getting news here and there.
The media industry's new "mantra" is "digital first, print second." The psychological advantage of print's power of auto-suggestion and "subliminal programming is lost forever on the educated masses who are voraciously inputting knowledge and data at a rate never before imagined.
As media has molded and shaped our politics in the past, the new frontier that is still in it's infancy stages online will one day have the public so in-tune with what politicians are doing minute by minute, that they will no longer last but one term when they are not representing the majority of their constituency.
Yellow Journalism is an appropriate term as an infected appendage turns yellow before the blackness of death and decay sets in and it dies and falls away. Gone are the "newsies" shouting and hawking sensational headlines that "inquiring minds want to know." EXTRA EXTRA! We the people decide what news we want when we want it and how we want it.
Steven Masone~Publisher, NOR-CAL MEDIA GROUP