William Randolph Hearst: Father Of Yellow Journalism/Fake News Billionaire
By | April 26, 2020
There's never been an American character quite like William Randolph Hearst, the business tycoon, newspaper publisher, and politician who created the largest media company in the United States. Hearst's name is synonymous with media to this day, but he's also known as the father of "yellow journalism" after he used it to jump start the Spanish-American War. His influence on politics and journalism inspired Orson Welles to write and direct Citizen Kane, a film cataloging the life of a fictional magnate with the same moral vacancy as Hearst.
Born To Tycoon
Born on April 29, 1863, William Randolph Hearst became a millionaire not long after. His father, multi-millionaire miner George Hearst, had partnered up with three major mining operations—the Comstock Lode, Homestake Mine in South Dakota, and the Anaconda Mine in Montana—that made him one of the most powerful men in America. In 1880, George was gifted the San Francisco Examiner as a repayment for what must have been one heck of a gambling debt, but it wasn't something that he was all that interested in. It pretty much lingered in that one closet where we all keep our novelty mugs and other unwanted presents.
At least, that's where it stayed until young William set his sights on it. As a student at Harvard, Hearst wrote to his father demanding that he be put in charge of the Examiner despite George's hopes that his son would take over the mining business. On March 7, 1887, Hearst officially became the paper's owner. No expense was spared in turning the quaint little newspaper into "The Monarch of the Dailies," a journal that was dedicated to such noble causes as exposing political corruption, showcasing inspiring stories, and ... spreading cautionary tales about Asian immigration. Well, they can't all be winners.
The Birth Of Yellow Journalism
As Hearst's media influence grew, so did his power to push sensationalist narratives across the country. The term "yellow journalism," a manipulative brand of coverage based on persuasive hyperbole, came from his rivalry with New York World and a comic called Hogan's Alley created by artist R.F. Outcault that featured a character named The Yellow Kid who lived in the back streets of New York City. Hearst hired Outcault away from New York World to create a new version of the character, and soon enough, there were two versions of The Yellow Kid helping to bring readers to sensationalist newspapers.
Hearst's over-the-top headlines and infamously heated rivalries launched a newspaper sales revolution that changed the world in uncountable ways, but one of the strangest was its role in the instigation of the Spanish-American War. While reporting from Cuba, his journalists told lurid tales of women kept in cages and America-loving, freedom-fighting rebels, but they really crossed the line when they claimed, absent any evidence at all, that Spain was responsible for sinking the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor. Hearst’s readers, at least a million strong at that point, were so incensed by these stories that they demanded America get involved.