The term “yellow journalism” was coined by Joseph Pulitzer in the 1890’s. His competition with another major newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst, had been escalating, so Pulitzer used a technique of drawings that would become a large contribution to the Spanish American War. This new style of journalism started out as a comic strip called Hogan’s Alley. It depicted the “Yellow Kid” (as seen above), which was the inspiration for the term “yellow” journalism. Pulitzer published this in his newspaper and saw a dramatic increase in sales. Hearst launched a bidding war over the artist of the cartoon and won, but Pulitzer simply hired a new cartoonist and continued the illustrations. (1)
Pulitzer and Hearst both understood the importance of headlining, so they both chose to cover the crisis in Cuba, which had been gaining national attention. The comic strips that were printed contained “horrific tales described the situation in Cuba–female prisoners, executions, valiant rebels fighting, and starving women and children” at the hands of Spain (2). After the sinking of the Maine, Hearst’s comics blamed the Spanish, and soon the American public demanded answers.
The power of media and the influence of Yellow Journalism can be argued to have started the war. Yellow journalism became an important factor of newspapers, and became a controversial topic. This exaggerated form of news overshadowed other events of the time period, making it a major focus of American citizens. This begs the question, if the situation had not been so inflated, would there have even been a war? The power and influence of this new form of media proved to effect many people, bringing skepticism of journalism today. Many people have become wary and critical of media, causing journalists to have reach out and find new ways to earn the public’s trust.
(1) “U.S. Diplomacy and Yellow Journalism, 1895–1898 – 1866–1898 – Milestones – Office of the
Historian.” U.S. Diplomacy and Yellow Journalism, 1895–1898 – 1866–1898 – Milestones – Office of the Historian. Accessed December 4, 2014. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/yellow-journalism.
(2) “The Spanish American War.” PBS. Accessed December 4, 2014.