21 Yellow Journalism Facts: Read About This Style Of Reporting

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Nov 02, 2022 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Apr 14, 2022
Edited by Ruffa Espejon
Yellow journalism facts are as attractive as the style of reporting itself!

The broad definition of journalism is to gather information, assess the information, and then present the information or news in a manner that cultivates interest from the general public.

But there may be one in particular that focuses more on sales and earning money rather than providing information or news. This concept, spanning from the late 19th century to the very early 20th century is known by the very popular name of yellow journalism.

This style of journalism is known by a few other names like the yellow press, tabloid journalism, and sensational journalism. This concept uses attractive features like exaggerations, sensationalism, bold, bright, and colorful layouts to make sure that readers are interested in buying more.

However, in return, the information published is not so important, morally taken, or, at times, even true. According to journalism historians, this method of journalism was first introduced by Joseph Pulitzer, in his newly acquired newspaper, the New York World.

Pulitzer's paper would have an excessive number of pictures and games to entertain the newspaper readers.

His paper offered almost three times more coverage with exciting headlines than other rival newspapers like the 'New York Sun' and the 'New York Herald'. Using this style of journalism, Pulitzer's paper became the best circulating newspaper in New York.

Completely impressed by Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst acquired the 'New York Journal', after the success of the 'San Francisco Examiner'. He then adopted and used the concept of yellow journalism to create his sensationalism.

This method made his newspaper popular and one of the best. Seeing this, many other yellow journalists came into existence and this style is still being used today.

Style & Key Features Of Yellow Journalism

Although yellow journalism is a clever style of reporting, there are some distinct styles and key features this method follows from which the viewers can easily identify and understand.

Joseph Pulitzer was the person who created this new style of journalism. This was later named yellow journalism or yellow press by the editor of the New York press.

This idea was introduced to boost sales of his newspaper in New York City, rather than spreading legitimate news.

This style of newspaper reporting uses a technique called sensationalism to create interest amongst the readers, no matter what has to be printed.

The primary key feature was the usage of exaggeration in any information or news published.

Scandal mongering is also considered to be one of the key techniques used in yellow journalism.

Under this style of journalism, no proper verification of acquired news is followed.

The news published was mostly considered to be of less value because there were chances that the information was falsified or not legitimate.

Newspaper publishers who use this style usually have the front page with multiple columns stacked with headlines that cover an array of fields.

The front page tends to cover topics like sports, crime stories, and scandals as those topics gain the most attention among civilians.

Yellow journalists always sensationalize any topic. This is just to entertain people and make sure they are never bored, but most importantly, make sure they buy more!

Minor news materials were also given extreme importance, and they made sure to print all their headlines in big and bold letters.

Short headlines using absolute, brash, and harsh language is often used.

There is a large amount of disrespect directed at the antagonist of the story. The antagonist is usually called names and depicted as lesser to the protagonist of the story.

A plethora of colorful pictures, highly creative and imaginative drawings, or illustrations, fill the pages thereby catching the attention of readers.

One of the most treacherous features of this style of journalism is that they rely a lot on fake interviews, unnamed sources, pseudoscience, highly misleading headlines, and false information from experts who are usually also unreliable.

Sunday special segments in weekly magazines and regional papers were always a hit. They included colorful comic strip segments, and newspaper reporters gave an extra sensational touch to all news reports.

Other than comic strip segments yellow press of the 19th century always had vacant space for sensationalized crime coverage. This was done for the lone purpose of exciting the public and encouraging public opinions, thereby boosting sales.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Yellow Journalism

Understandably, everything in the world will have its advantages and disadvantages, and journalism is no different. However, the method of yellow journalism is all, but advantageous to its readers.

Yellow journalism does have its advantages and disadvantages, but all the advantages are directly connected only to the publisher. The reader is known to have nothing advantageous in a newspaper that uses yellow journalism.

On the other hand, all the disadvantages related to yellow journalism are directly connected to the reader or the consumer. Aside from running the risk of destroying their credibility, the newspaper publishing company does not seem to have disadvantages from using this style of journalism.

The biggest advantage of using yellow journalism is that it would increase the circulation of consumable news for readers and viewers. This would thereby increase the rate of sales.

Since this method uses a lot of sensationalism, along with various other attractive features, this style makes sure that readers are entertained to the fullest extent, which in turn increases circulation and sales of information.

The next big advantage is that the publisher gets to earn a lot of money. This is all connected to the advantage of huge sales and circulation. The more a publisher attracts and intrigues readers, the higher a publisher's sales go.

The primary disadvantage of this style of journalism is that the reader or viewer does not get to know very much or understand anything factual. This is because most of the news and information published is not properly verified. There are also chances that they are not legitimate.

Another disadvantage is that this style of journalism leads to the major use of sensationalism, and today this style of journalism has led to the emergence of a culture of sensationalism. Although the peak usage of this style has ended, the mass media industry has not been able to completely discard a few of the characteristics.

An increase in violence, various issues related to human security, gender discrimination, and a visible change in economic, social, and political life are all disadvantages to the use of yellow journalism.

The use of this style of journalism has indeed become very limited, but even the minimal existence of yellow journalism is leading to a mass media industry that is completely distorted. 

A style of journalism so important for the publishers but not so important to the readers.

Types & Examples Of Yellow Journalism

The method of yellow journalism was one of the most widely used styles of journalism for at least a couple of decades, and a few of the techniques are used today. So, there exists a few characteristic-based types of this journalism, and examples of this style are countless.

The Spanish American War would be one of the greatest examples of yellow journalism. In 1898, a U.S. Battleship named the U.S.S. Maine sank because of an explosion.

It was well-known yellow journalists Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst who published articles in their newspapers. These articles fabricated a story describing a false plot to sink the U.S. battleship. This false story in their newspapers increased tensions and lead to war.

An article once claimed that the tech company, Samsung, paid a billion-dollar settlement to Apple, all in nickels. This line was a comedic statement that was published in the article, depicted to be true.

The Ebola outbreak in 2014 scared a lot of people, but a few yellow journalists wanted to take it up a notch. 'Bloomberg Businessweek' was a business magazine that created a graphic cover page for the magazine that headlined with the phrase 'ebola is coming'.

The phrase was written in a blood-dripping font. This covered the entire page. This was a typical example of exaggeration and sensationalization, within yellow journalism.

Prince Harry of the British Royal Family and his wife Megan Markle decided to give up their royal titles so that they could lead a simple life, out of the public eye. The media started covering every move they would make, the focus was to cover anything and everything about the decision of simple life.

In 2017, Donald Trump tweeted a phrase that included the unheard word 'covfefe'. This could have just been a typing mistake, but the media did not take it so lightly, and they indulged in the excessive scrutiny of the word, bringing out various possible meanings.

There was a shocking headline accompanied by a video as proof stating, 'baby snatched by an eagle'. This viral news took viral interest from people around the globe, but it was later found that the video shown in the news was fake.

There was once a photo of a person standing with a firing squad aimed at a person that went on numerous newspapers. The newspapers claimed that the person shown in the published picture was a spy from an enemy country.

In reality, it turned out to be a fake photo with the photographer himself posing like a spy. He did this just to get an interesting photo.

A news channel once made a report that Benjamin Netanyahu, an opposition leader of Israel has called the Prime Minister of Israel, a traitor. But it was later found that the report had mischaracterized the opposition leader's words.

O.J. Simpson was a great American football player, but he was also known for multiple legal issues. He was also accused of murdering his ex-wife, and the media's live reporting of his capture made this legal incident become one of the most sensationalized cases ever.

A newspaper named 'The Sun' once published a news report that stated that a mother was using botox on her young daughter and she was also allowed to wax just so she would look young.

Later, when she was asked by Child Welfare officials if that was true, she openly declared that the newspaper company paid her to tell the story.

She also added that she was given a written script earlier which she was supposed to follow during the interview.

There was a very interesting headline that caught the eye of everyone. The headline proclaimed that Bradd Pitt was chased and attacked by a crazy female fan.

He was not that happy about that situation because she was able to break through his circle of bodyguards. In reality, she was a fan but all she wanted was to hug Bradd Pitt and take a picture with him. The situation had nothing to do with her attacking him.

The news about the fire in the Del Monte hotel is also one of the major examples of yellow journalism. This news was published in William Randolph Hearst's newspaper named the 'San Francisco Examiner'. This published report told the story of a hotel fire in the most sensationalized way possible.

In another event, one of Hearst's reporters was hospitalized, and the reporter found that needy women were being treated poorly there. The following day an exaggerated article was published which led to the entire staff of the hospital getting fired.

Other than the above, there are still so many more examples of yellow journalism. From the beginning of Pulitzer's time until today.

Some of the most popular yellow press headlines have been: 'titanic survivors found on board', 'a history of Hotel Del Monte', 'vampires attack U.S. troops', 'Abraham Lincoln was a woman', 'dolphin grows human arms', and 'a snake with human head found'.


Q: Does yellow journalism still exist today?

A: Yellow journalism does exist today but in a more subtle way. By the advent of the 20th century, the era of yellow journalism had almost come to an end.

A few yellow journalism techniques like colored comics and bannered headlines have become so widespread and etched into journalism, that some practices can still be seen in media, like television and the internet.

Q: What is another name for yellow journalism?

A: The name yellow journalism was used in many cases, and this name is the most popular. However, there are times when this method of journalism was called by multiple other names like the yellow press, exploitative journalism, sensational journalism, tabloid journalism, and sensationalism.

Q: What was the main characteristic of yellow journalism?

A: The main characteristic of yellow journalism was always very simple. Newspaper publishers who use this style usually have the front page with multiple columns stacked with headlines that cover an array of fields.

The front page tends to cover topics like sports, crime stories, and scandals as those topics gain the most attention among civilians. Short headlines using absolute, brash, and harsh language is often used. There is a large amount of disrespect directed at the antagonist of the story.

The antagonist is usually called names and depicted as lesser to the protagonist of the story. A plethora of colorful pictures, highly creative and imaginative drawings, or illustrations, fill the pages thereby catching the attention of readers.

Q: What were the effects of yellow journalism?

A: The effects of yellow journalism are extensive. The first important effect of this journalism was the introduction of a concept called sensationalism, which has now become a culture.

The second effect it had was a complete change in economic, social, and political life. The third and the worst effect was that the mass media industry has become completely distorted.

All of these effects lead to very bad impacts on the society itself like an increase in violence, the emergence of issues related to human security, and gender discrimination.

Q: Who started yellow journalism?

A: The concept of yellow journalism was first initiated by Joseph Pulitzer after he purchased a newspaper company named New York World. He wanted this newspaper to be the dominant paper in the entire New York.

To make this happen he started to print bold and bright sensational headlines with many interesting pictures, and games. This concept attracted a lot of people and within two years, New York World became New York's highest circulated newspaper. From then on the technique of yellow journalism became widespread.

Q: Why was yellow journalism so important?

A: Yellow Journalism is of no importance to readers. The only people to whom this was important were the publishers themselves. The only reason newspaper publishers used this method was to attract a lot of people to buy their papers. By making use of yellow journalism, newspaper publishers would increase the circulation of their papers.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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