While Joseph Pulitzer worked his way ethically up the chain of newspaper power, Hearst came roaring onto the paper scene with millions at his disposal. Pulitzer had no way of seeing what a whirlwind of paper games the reckless individual Hearst brought. Hearst was careless with his money, but his one cent New York Journal challenged the circulation pure intended efforts of Pulitzer.
Native Hungarian, Joseph Pulitzer came to the United States and created a reputation for himself. After working for a German publication, Pulitzer moved on to become a legend as the Editor of the New York World.
Pulitzer created a new style of journalism, one that spoke clearly to the common people and was less expensive and therefore more available to the masses. He had created a “people’s paper,” which aimed to be readable and ethical in exposing fraud and public unjustice (Streitmatter, 77).
Though his sensationalism was looked down on by some, Pulitzer said such emphasis was necessary in getting the people to the paper stands. Pulitzer was convinced that the people needed the news and that his dramatic headlines were actually a courtesy to the interest and livelihood of the common people.
Born in California in 1863, Hearst was the only son of silver minner George Hearst, who struck profit (Streitmatter, 78). George’s money was endless enough to enable him to buy himself a seat in the Senate and purchase his son, William, admission to Harvard. Unfortunately for George, William was too impulsive and reckless to maintain a college career. William ended up sabotaging his college experience by drinking too much and studying too little and he was ultimately expelled.
After college, William went to work for Pulitzer and soon began to idolize his work. With his growing passion for eccentric news, William convinced his father to let him edit the San Francisco Examiner. Soon, the Examiner’s circulation escalated to 200,000 but this success only fueld William farther (Streitmatter, 79).
With endless amounts of money at his disposal, Hearst bought the New York Journal in order to compete with Pulitzer, a man he had great admiration for and could now compete with. And compete he did. Hearst arrived on the east coast paper scene, dropping the price of his new Journal from two cents to one; immediately challenging the power and financial stability of Pulitzer’s newspaper rein.
Hearst played a dirty game of circulation battle by imitating all of Pulitzer’s publishing techniques, and often took them a step father (Swanberg, 205). Hearst’s paper used a more simple language, which appealed more to the working class. He sensationalized what news was there and when there wasn’t any news to sensationonalize he created news. Hearst’s tactics were entertaining, readable and cheap, and Pulitzer fell prey to an unethical game of tug-o-circulation.
Pulitzer’s New York World started falling short when Hearst’s paper gained and even stole advertisers and introduced color printing to the public. It was only a year later when Hearst’s Journal was the second largest in New York, behind Pulitzer’s World, that the two men began their war (Streitmatter, 79). Both papers began publishing as hard and as fast as they could, in an attempt to beat the other’s success. Pulitzer vs. Hearst became the most infamous newspaper war in journalism history, and it was ultimately this war that lead to the creation of “yellow journalism.”
Streitmatter, R. (1997). Mightier than the sword. Westview Press.
Swanberg, W. A. (1967). Pulitzer. Scribner.