American Experience
Yellow Journalism

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Yellow Journalism

Newspapers raced to publish more visually exciting and sensational stories. Joseph Pulitzer, editor of New York's The World, and William Randolph Hearst, editor of The New York Morning Journal were strong rivals in the late1890s. Hearst had hired away a number of key staff members from Pulitzer, including Morrill Goddard, head of the Sunday edition, and cartoonist R. F. Outcault, who drew the popular "Yellow Kid." Hearst upped the hype with lurid copy and headlines. Sample Journal headlines from 1896 include: "One Mad Blow Kills Child," "Startling Confession of Wholesale Murderer Who Begs to Be Hanged," and "Strange Things Women Do for Love," The Spanish-American War in 1898 was a battle between the publications as well -- and Hearst pulled out all the stops and money to scoop Pulitzer. The one-upmanship that began with a battle over the colorful cartoon character resulted in a rise in sensationalism -- inspiring the term "yellow journalism."

Salacious details involving a social lion and a young Broadway showgirl provided great copy. Add to that a murder by an abusive, unstable husband -- in a jealous rage -- and readers had a real page-turner. It was a wealth of riches for the papers. The subsequent trial of Harry Thaw dominated the newspapers for months in 1907. And editors beautified their coverage of legal proceedings with a few Evelyn Nesbit images.

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1 -- Manufacturing Advances 2 -- New Look, New Stories 3 -- Yellow Journalism