Sensationalism In America's Media - by Stephen Lendman
Its history is long and sordid, dating back centuries elsewhere since the 1500s or earlier. In 19th century America, the penny press and yellow journalism featured it with regular coverage of crime, tragedy, gossip, and other ways to stimulate sales.
Newspaper editor Frederic Hudson published a history of American newspapers titled, "Journalism in the United States, from 1690 to 1872," an authoritative text saying:
"The penny press arrived in New York on January 1, 1833, when Horatio David Shepard teamed up with Horace Greeley and Francis W. Story and issued the Morning Post."
Both found fame and fortune in New York, but "the concept of bringing out a penny paper belonged exclusively to Shepard."
In 1835, James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald featured local news and corruption, realizing "there was more....money to be made (from) gossip that interested bar-rooms, work-shops, race courses, and tenement houses (than) drawing rooms and libraries."
As a result, penny papers featured vulgarity, cheapness, and spurious sensationalist accounts to spur sales, though later more significant information was reported.
Originating during the late 19th century Gilded Age circulation battles between Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal, yellow journalism first emerged.
Dictionaries define it variously as irresponsible and sensationalist reporting that distorts, exaggerates or misstates the truth. Its misinformation masquerades as fact to boost circulation, readership, or larger viewing audiences, as well as lie for state and corporate interests.
In 1941, Frank Luther Mott named its five main features:
(1) scare headlines, often on minor junk food news.
(2) lavish use of photos, pictures, or imaginary drawings.
(3) fake interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science, featuring paid-for-media "experts."
(4) full-color Sunday supplements.
(5) sympathizing with the underdog against the system, a practice now reversed, mischaracterizing or wrongfully vilifying people; among many others - Casey Anthony, blackening her name unfairly. More on her below.
Reports feature overdramatized crime and vice, including murder, assault, robbery, vandalism, rape and sexual assault. Though styles changed over time, sensationalism remains common today, in tabloids, other publications, and infotainment television (masquerading as news) because it sells.