About Yellow Journalism

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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a new type of news created to increase newspaper profits emerged: Yellow journalism. Yellow journalism, news designed to hook readers with their emotions using exaggerated or tabloidized stories. Although false or misleading news wasn't new, it was especially harmful when given the reach of newspapers of the day. Most of these articles employed a standard, easy to read format (pioneered by Pulitzer) with the following elements: a large, bold title and a one sentence summary subtitle to hook readers, a short slugline to indicate time and location to the reader, a short 2-4 sentence description of the event, witness or expert quotes to bolster the authority of the article and evoke emotions in the reader, a written conclusion telling readers what to think, and several sentences rounding out the article related to the potential consequences or future events that would occur as a result of the described event.

Although this design helped give readers a recognizable and easy-to-consume format for their news, the events and witness accounts were often exaggerated, sensationalized, sometimes falsified, and often biased to capture reader's attention and sell more newspapers. When the USS Maine exploded in Havana, the papers rushed to conclusions. The very language they used was cherry-picked to suggest Spain had committed a hostile action and was responsible. One of the headlines from Pulitzer's New York World after the sinking of the USS Maine was Torpedo or Bomb? suggesting that the Spanish were culpable. They called the explosion a sinking to suggest that the Spanish had actively tried to sink the Maine, even though there was no evidence of Spanish involvement. Due to the biased coverage, the public was outraged at Spain's supposed sinking of the USS Maine, and called for war, which Congress declared. Although the war was a direct result of biased coverage and was completely unnecessary, it was great news for the newspaper companies because the war gave them fodder for more overblown and exaggerated headlines to publish (which was the reason that they took their anti-Spain position in the first place: they wanted the US to go to war).

I have made and attached 3 stories following the style of yellow journalism at this time. The three stories are all about sinking of the USS Maine (two within a week of the event, and one discussing the event at a later time), and all use the same tabloid-esque format, misleading or biased language, and fictional events as part of real events to characterize the stories they portray.


  1. Anslow, Louis. Before the Internet, Irresponsible Journalism Was Blamed for a War and a Presidential Assassination. Timeline, Medium, 9 Feb. 2017, timeline.com/yellow-journalism-media-history-8a29e4462ac.
  2. New York World Newspaper Archives, Jun 22, 1894, p. 7. NewspaperArchive, A J, 22 June 1894, newspaperarchive.com/new-york-world-jun-22-1894-p-7/.
  3. Danzer, Gerald A. The Americans: Reconstruction to the 21st Century. Holt McDougal, 2012.
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About Yellow Journalism. (2019, Dec 18). Retrieved December 9, 2023 , from

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