Publication information
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Source: Sioux City Journal
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Newspaper Yellowism”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: Sioux City, Iowa
Date of publication: 11 September 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: none
Pagination: 4

“Newspaper Yellowism.” Sioux City Journal 11 Sept. 1901: p. 4.
full text
yellow journalism; McKinley assassination (public response); Chicago, IL (newspapers); McKinley assassination (news coverage: criticism).
Named persons
William Randolph Hearst; William McKinley.


Newspaper Yellowism

     The characteristics of yellow journalism have been conspicuous since the attempt was made last Friday on the life of the president. These characteristics have been made conspicuous because every careful reader of newspapers has been anxious to get at the truth in connection with that tragedy and all matters bearing thereon or related thereto. Therefore newspaper yellowism has been subjected to unusual analysis, and the result has tended to expand and intensify the prejudice of intelligent people against the yellowism of newspapering.
     The weakness of yellowism has fastened itself to some extent upon nearly all the metropolitan newspapers. In Chicago, for instance, not one of the prominent newspapers is free of it. The yellow tendency in Chicago is more noticeable since Hearst established a branch office there. The other newspapers do not go to the extreme of the American, but they show that they have been inoculated and that the poison is working.
     Yellowism in newspapering is an innovation of recent time. It is a result, in considerable part, of cheapness. The bone of contention among publishers is circulation, not for the profit of circulation, but because business men [sic] place orders for advertising on the basis of circulation. Therefore the publishers reach out in every possible way for circulation. The character of it is not a controlling consideration. The temptation is constant to go after the multitude, and it must be confessed that the multitude in the great cities is not of high average in point of intelligence. The temptation is to arrest the eye and not the judgment. Many of these yellow newspapers are made up, from one end to the other of their news columns, on the unmixed theory that few people bother themselves to read and fewer still to think. Big type, setting forth sensational sentences, is employed on every page. Pictures, imaginary in character, are pushed in everywhere, labeled as representing this or that, when in truth they represent nothing except glaring falsehood. The purpose is to excite the senses. The plan is on the theory that a lie is more acceptable than the truth, if the truth is tame and the lie exciting.
     The shooting of McKinley was sensational enough for yellowism, but instantly attempt was made to answer all demands for details, views of every possible scene and person connected in any way with the tragedy, the words of the victim, the bearing of his wife—everything that anxiety could suggest and that morbidity and idle and vulgar curiosity might respond to. To meet this demand the imagination of writers and of artists was put to work. Consistency in the stories told and of likeness in the pictures drawn, according to the daily custom of yellowism, was wholly secondary. The “scoop” fever runs riot in yellow newspaper offices. An exclusive story is regarded as a triumph in journalism. The truth of the story is not the question; but the question is whether it is sufficiently plausible to be sensational. The story being untrue is many times turned to advantage, for in a subsequent issue the falsity of it can be disclosed with scathing animadversions on individuals said to be responsible for such gross deception, together with some examination of motive, and with such indignant protest over the general depravity of people who would deceive the public in the advancement of purposes of their own as practice in yellowism may render possible.
     Men detailed to write stories for yellow newspapers go about their work as a mechanic might proceed to build a hog house. What sort of a house is wanted? The correspondent will supply any sort of a story the management may suggest. The management understands that there are different classes of readers. There are those who want the direst possibilities. Therefore there must be a story for these. There are those who want the brightest and most hopeful side. Therefore there must be a story for these. There are those who want to see the assassin. Therefore a picture with his name underneath must be made for the next issue. There are those who want to see the house in which the patient is struggling for life. Therefore the house, or a house, is displayed. There are those who want to see the family of the criminal. Therefore the family is presented. Whatever anyone wants to read or wants to see the yellow newspaper will present in the next issue. It is only a question of knowing what is wanted.
     There has been intense desire on the part of all classes of people for the news in connection with the frightful crime at Buffalo. In consequence of this desire there has been unusual scrutiny of newspapers with a view of getting at the truth. The result is that attention has been strongly directed to the sin of yellow journalism.
     The difficulty of reading newspapers has increased with the most discriminating and intelligent people. Even a yellow of the yellow can be read in a way to get at least a suspicion of the real news. But the habit is growing with the best people to question the reliability of newspaper reports. Yellowism is so insidious that it creeps in everywhere. It is impossible for the most carefully edited newspaper to trace the origin and thereby weigh the value of all reports.
     Yellowism should be choked off. It is vitiating in its influence, corrupting in its tendency, and disgraceful to a profession entitled to be reckoned as honorable.
     People who think a Police Gazette is the highest type of publication will continue to have opportunity to place their subscriptions to their liking. People who think that advertising in the vilest yellowism is the most profitable will doubtless continue to have opportunity to waste their money. But newspaper patrons who have different ideas ought to unite in making the best possible market for real newspapers.



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