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William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951)

William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst, the powerful owner and editor of the New York Journal, was one of the most colorful, influential, and outspoken figures involved in activities surrounding Spanish-American War.

William Randolph Hearst, son of wealthy U.S. Senator George Hearst and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, was born in San Francisco in 1863. Hearst's passion for journalism began when he was a young man. As a student at Harvard, Hearst worked on the Harvard Lampoon and later apprenticed with New York World owner Joseph Pulitzer.

When he was only 24 years old, Hearst's career as a publisher began. In 1887, with help from his father's mining fortune, Hearst became the owner and operator of the San Francisco Examiner. Hearst fashioned his paper after Pulitzers' sensationalist approach and flashy style.

In 1895, Hearst turned to the east coast for his next journalistic endeavor and purchased the New York Journal. As the owner of the Journal, Hearst entered the fiercely competitive world of New York journalism. Positioned against his former mentor Joseph Pulitzer, Hearst recruited staff away from the World and continued to copy Pulitzer's style.

The Cuban Revolution of 1895, came at a perfect time for Hearst and his New York Journal. With the eyes of a businessman and a politician, Hearst saw the events in Cuba as a way place himself and his paper on center stage.

Journalism in the late 1890s became known as "yellow journalism" because the sensationalist articles were found among the same pages that carried popular yellow cartoon characters. The New York Journal's coverage of the insurrection was sharply biased, with articles, cartoons, and headlines that promoted the Cuban cause and called for the United States to intervene.

Hearst created several schemes to spark U.S. intervention. The most well-known involved the imprisonment and release of Cuban prisoner Evangeline Cisneros. With his hand in her dramatic escape, Hearst successfully used publicity to rally U.S. interest for the Cuban struggle.

Perhaps the most famous anecdote surrounding Heart's zeal for the war involves a legendary communication between illustrator Frederick Remington and Hearst. As the story goes, Remington, who had been sent to Cuba to cover the insurrection, cabled to Hearst that there was no war to cover. Hearst allegedly replied with, "You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war."

In 1898, Hearst chartered the yacht Sylvia to Cuba to witness battles between the U.S. Navy and the Spanish Fleet. From his ship, Hearst continued to publish sensationalist stories in a "Cuban Edition," personally making sure that the U.S. public stayed informed.

After the Spanish-American War, Hearst remained an outspoken and powerful member of the U.S. press. Hearst was critical of the treatment of U.S. troops as they returned home and blasted the Secretary of War, Russell A. Alger.

While it may be unfair to claim that Hearst "created" the war, it is clear that the events of 1898 and 1899 may have been very different without William Randolph Hearst and the other yellow journalists of the day.

Bibliography:

  • Dyal, Donald H.. Historical Dictionary of the Spanish American War. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1996.
  • Milton, Joyce. The Yellow Kids: Foreign Correspondents in the Heyday of Yellow Journalism. Harper-Perrenial: New York, 1989.
  • O'Toole, G.J.A., The Spanish War: An American Epic-1898. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1984.


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