Yellow Journalism: The "Fake News" of the 19th Century



The problem of “fake news” is nothing new. In fact, peddling public lies for political gain can be found in most periods of history dating back to antiquity. The Spanish-American War is often referred to as the first "media war." During the 1890s, journalism that sensationalized — and sometimes even manufactured — dramatic events was a powerful force that helped propel the United States into war with Spain. Led by newspaper owners William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, journalism of the 1890s used melodrama, romance, and exaggeration to sell millions of newspapers, a style that became known as "yellow journalism.” Today, fake news is the latest culprit in the continuing saga. A mix of cynical political operators and business opportunists have blanketed the Internet — social media in particular — with wholly manufactured news stories. Fake news is part of the larger problem of “click journalism”: media that focuses on getting online click-throughs, of which Fox News seems to be chief. As long as we give our time, our dollars and our clicks to disreputable sites, fake news will continue to thrive.