Publication information
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Source: Review
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “How to Combat Yellow Journalism”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: 1902
Volume number: 9
Issue number: 1
Pagination: 7-8

“How to Combat Yellow Journalism.” Review 1902 v9n1: pp. 7-8.
full text
yellow journalism.
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; James Gibbons; John Ireland; William McKinley; Henry Codman Potter.


How to Combat Yellow Journalism

     Yellow journalism, against which there was such an outcry immediately after the assassination of President McKinley, has outlived the onslaught and continues its nefarious work.
     The discussion incident to Czolgosz’s detestable crime has, however, developed one fact of the first importance. It has shown that the public realizes that the chief strength of such journalism to-day comes from the support which distinguished men have given to its worst representatives. Along with the perception of this fact has come a realization of the responsibility of such leaders for their endorsement of demoralizing publications.
     The only dissent from the position that every self-respecting citizen ought to make it a matter of conscience not to contribute to the yellow journals and not to buy them, has come from a certain clergyman; to-wit, that this is the best way to reach a great audience. “If we desire to reach the great mass of citizens, do we do wrong by putting our teachings in the place where the audience sought will find it?”
     The answer is simple. We ought to put our teaching in the place where the audience sought will find it, provided—but only provided—that this is a place where people may properly look for anything. Obscene books are published and secure a large sale, despite the most vigorous efforts to suppress them. No class of people need a good lesson in morals more than the purchasers of such books. But Cardinal Gibbons or Archbishop Ireland or “Bishop” Potter—all men who have at one time or other contributed to such papers as the New York Journal—would have no right to contribute decent matter to an indecent book on the theory that they might do good to its readers, even if the publisher could demonstrate to them that he might thus put their teaching in a place where hundreds of thousands would find it—simply because people have no right to look there. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.”
     The yellow journal is only less objectionable than the publication which crosses the line of decency drawn by the law and which therefore may be suppressed through the courts. As the Evening Post very correctly remarks, its pervading spirit is one of vulgarity, indecency, and reckless sensationalism; it steadily violates the canons alike of good taste and sound morals; it cultivates false standards of life, and demoralizes its readers; it recklessly uses language which may incite the crack-brained to lawlessness; its net influence makes the world worse.
     If we could suppress such a newspaper by law, without trenching upon the freedom of the press, the problem would be solved. This seems impossible, but the same end may be reached more [7][8] slowly by the force of public sentiment. Respectable working-people can be made to feel that they ought not to buy a yellow journal, that it is not a fit paper for their homes, that their sons and daughters are harmed by reading it—in short, that they should treat it practically as they would treat an indecent publication.
     But our prelates and other leaders of public opinion can not hope to turn respectable working-people from reading yellow journals so long as they contribute to such journals. Indeed they can not consistently say a word against them so long as they thus endorse them.
     The yellow journals care nothing about Bishop So and So’s or Father Who-you-Please’s ideas on the labor or any other question. All that they want an occasional article from them for, is that they may advertise them as contributors and endorsers; that they may boast that the best men in the community believe in them; that they may persuade the credulous that “the Journal (or the American, or the Examiner, or the Post-Dispatch) can not be so bad, or Bishop N. or Father X. wouldn’t write for it.”
     Of what use is it for any rightminded father to object to his son’s reading a yellow journal, or for any careful mother to warn her daughter against its corrupting influence, when the child can retort with truth that the most respectable and saintly men write especially for it?
     The whole matter is very simple. Are yellow journals bad for the community? If so, they should be discouraged in every proper way by every good citizen, and particularly by every teacher of religion or morality. The most effective way is never to have anything to do with them.



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