What is Yellow Journalism? – Modern Day Examples

Sensationalized headlines typed in big, bold letters with obnoxious fonts consisting of anything less than well-researched articles screams yellow journalism. The term first appeared in the 1890’s due to a feud between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. These were two of the most sought after men in the New York City newspaper industry at the time.

The Yellow Kid is to thank for the name “Yellow Journalism.” This was a cartoon strip published in Pulitzer’s New York World. After the comic strip became extremely popular, New York World had a large increase in sales. Hearst noticed the popularity and fought for the Yellow Kid to be printed in his newspaper, New York Journal. After winning the battle, Pulitzer never gave up and hired a different cartoonist to keep the Yellow Kid alive in his newspaper. This fight between these two influential men over the Yellow Kid led to the start of yellow journalism. The term then carried over into sensationalized news due to newspapers trend of using articles to boost readers.

Yellow Journalism
Yellow Journalism

Modern Day Examples of Yellow Journalism

Modern day examples of yellow journalism can be found all over the internet, especially social media. For example, many YouTube influencers use sensationalized titles and video thumbnails to attract their audience. Sometimes, this is at the expense of the accuracy of their content. In modern day, the term “clickbait” or “fake news” is often used to describe yellow journalism.

Yellow journalism is prevalent today, but it is more common than it was in the 1900’s, when this term was popularized. Today, stories can quickly go viral due to the public’s reaction and the use of technology. Media is being redefined because of this. Both news sources and individual influencers understand how negative news travels faster in comparison to positive news. Some examples of this are within politics or celebrity news. The negative stories on these public figures normally spread fast. These stories get embellished to something more dramatic by the publishers in order to grow readership. Modern yellow journalism is all about the reaction.

To some, this embellished news can be seen as “fake news.” This is because of the way news spreads in today’s society regardless of its accuracy. Someone’s tweet can immediately be seen by a news source and before they have time to fact check it, the article is already out for the world to see. There is so much competition between the different news sources and each one wants to make sure they are first to report on the story. This is why some take the risk at reporting before checking their sources. They have the ability to update the story at a later time if needed and make it right, but to some, as long as the story is out, they are happy. This leads back to the sensationalized news; the need to boost readers.

Fake News Online
Perceived frequency of online news websites reporting fake news stories in the United States as of March 2018. Statista.

The news is always evolving. There will always be the yearning for news sources to sensationalize things. They will always want to get the best reaction they feel they can get out of their readers. After all, yellow journalism is a tried and true method to attract many people’s attention. Even if the public feels that they dislike sensationalized news, it still sells and spreads more than generic headlines. News has the power to manipulate public opinion. When it comes down to it, that is all yellow journalism really is. Yellow journalism is about manipulating by over-dramatizing news or reporting on negative events with the intention of getting a large reaction.

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