Just updated and more to come! Yellow journalism and the yellow press are American terms for journalism and associated newspapers that present little or no legitimate well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales. In English, the term is chiefly used in the US. In the UK, a roughly equivalent term is tabloid journalism, meaning journalism characteristic of tabloid newspapers, even if found elsewhere. The term was extensively used to describe certain major New York City newspapers around 1900 as they battled for circulation. The term was coined by Erwin Wardman, the editor of the New York Press.
Wardman was the first to publish the term but there is evidence that expressions such as “yellow journalism” and “school of yellow kid journalism” were already used by newsmen of that time. Wardman never defined the term exactly. Joseph Pulitzer purchased the New York World in 1883 after making the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the dominant daily in that city.
Pulitzer strove to make the New York World an entertaining read, and filled his paper with pictures, games and contests that drew in new readers. Crime stories filled many of the pages, with headlines like “Was He a Suicide? While there were many sensational stories in the New York World, they were by no means the only pieces, or even the dominant ones. Pulitzer believed that newspapers were public institutions with a duty to improve society, and he put the World in the service of social reform.
Just two years after Pulitzer took it over, the World became the highest circulation newspaper in New York, aided in part by its strong ties to the Democratic Party. Pulitzer’s approach made an impression on William Randolph Hearst, a mining heir who acquired the San Francisco Examiner from his father in 1887. Examiner reporters to do their work for them. But while indulging in these stunts, the Examiner also increased its space for international news, and sent reporters out to uncover municipal corruption and inefficiency. In one well remembered story, Examiner reporter Winifred Black was admitted into a San Francisco hospital and discovered that indigent women were treated with “gross cruelty. The entire hospital staff was fired the morning the piece appeared.
With the success of the Examiner established by the early 1890s, Hearst began looking for a New York newspaper to purchase, and acquired the New York Journal in 1895, a penny paper which Pulitzer’s brother Albert had sold to a Cincinnati publisher the year before. Metropolitan newspapers started going after department store advertising in the 1890s, and discovered the larger the circulation base, the better. In a counterattack, Hearst raided the staff of the World in 1896. While most sources say that Hearst simply offered more money, Pulitzer — who had grown increasingly abusive to his employees — had become an extremely difficult man to work for, and many World employees were willing to jump for the sake of getting away from him. Although the competition between the World and the Journal was fierce, the papers were temperamentally alike.
Their Sunday entertainment features included the first color comic strip pages, and some theorize that the term yellow journalism originated there, while as noted above, the New York Press left the term it invented undefined. American War due to sensationalist stories or exaggerations of the terrible conditions in Cuba. Serious historians have dismissed the telegram story as unlikely. The hubris contained in this supposed telegram, however, does reflect the spirit of unabashed self-promotion that was a hallmark of the yellow press and of Hearst in particular. Hearst became a war hawk 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 dubious accuracy, the newspaper readers of the 19th century did not expect, or necessarily want, his stories to be pure nonfiction. Pulitzer, though lacking Hearst’s resources, kept the story on his front page. The yellow press covered the revolution extensively and often inaccurately, but conditions on Cuba were horrific enough.
When the invasion began, Hearst sailed directly to Cuba as a war correspondent, providing sober and accurate accounts of the fighting. Hearst was a leading Democrat who promoted William Jennings Bryan for president in 1896 and 1900. Pulitzer, haunted by his “yellow sins,” returned the World to its crusading roots as the new century dawned. By the time of his death in 1911, the World was a widely respected publication, and would remain a leading progressive paper until its demise in 1931. Fees for Sleaze”,, Washington Post, Jan. Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the myths, defining the legacies. You Furnish the Legend, I’ll Furnish the Quote”.