Sensationalism and the Rise of Visual Journalism
The Introduction questions the legendary origin story for sensational journalism: in the late 1890s, competition between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer degraded serious journalism into “yellow journalism” – sometimes blamed for the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. The apocryphal story of Spanish authorities strip-searching female Cuban rebels captures sensationalism’s essence: the dissemination of false news to increase sales and further an agenda, through strident headlines, inventive reporting, and eye-catching illustration. As early as 1870, in fact, line illustrations gave commercial publications across the political spectrum tools to attract readers, or perhaps more accurately, “news consumers.” While use of headlines, scoops, and stunts date back to the 1830s, it was the proliferation of images in newspaper pages that came to define sensational journalism by century’s end.
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