Yellow Journalism: The Battle for Control of New York

December 13th, 2011

During the last part of the nineteenth century a battle for the control of readership in New York began with the rising sensationalism being reported in the two prominent newspapers in New York. Joseph Pulitzer as head of the New York World and William R. Hearst head of the New York Journal began to go head to head to determine who had the best selling and widest circulation in the city.  The effect of this battle would end up haunting both men long after the fact. The battle would give rise to the term “yellow journalism” to describe the sensational news reporting while the real news went largely unnoticed.

Joseph Pulitzer purchased The New York World in 1883[1] and began charging two cents for a paper that ranged from eight to twelve pages and included pictures and comic strips along with crime stories that ran along side actual news items. By 1885 The New York World had become the highest circulating paper in the city of New York. In contrast William R. Hearst, backed by his family fortune, purchased The New York Journal in 1895[2] and began selling it for only one cent in order to gain a foothold in the city. Hearst admired Pulitzer and took his ideas for his paper with the advent of publishing crime stories[3], comic strips and photographs with more emphasis than actual news stories. Hearst’s choice to sell his paper for only one cent would spark the battle between himself and Pulitzer that would damage the reputation of both men and their papers for years to follow.

The first idea of the sensationalism that would give rise to the term yellow journalism would come from the escalating problems in Cuba. With the decision of President McKinley to invade Cuba and start the Spanish-American War, the sensationalism would soon begin.

The problems started in 1896, Hearst’s paper even with such a large audience continued to lose money at an extraordinary rate of approximately $100,000 a month[4]. With Hearst in trouble, Pulitzer waged an all out circulation war by cutting his price to one cent and trying to drive out the upstart Hearst.

There is confusion over where the term yellow journalism originated. The most popular theory came from a cartoon published in both papers titled “Hogan’s Alley” drawn by Richard Outcault first in Pulitzer’s paper around 1895 and later adopted by Hearst when Outcault left to join the Journal.[5] First the term was applied to the rising sensational content of the papers for the sole purpose of driving up circulation. Sociologist W. I. Thomas credits yellow journalism as “news of highly sensational character.”[6] The battle seems to refer not only to the war between Hearst and Pulitzer for circulation but for the rights to publish the comic strip “Hogan’s Alley” and it was suggested that the term yellow journalism came about while both papers continued to publish “Hogan’s Alley”. The height of the sensationalism came when both papers published what turned out to be a fake telegram between the captain of the USS MAINE and the secretary of the Navy on February 17, 1898 which alleged Charles Sigsbee, the captain of the MAINE as reporting the explosion was not an accident.[7]

After the publication of the “fake” telegram both papers suffered damage to there reputation as many other papers called both Hearst and Pulitzer’s tactics disgraceful; however circulation had increased by more than a million copies per day.[8] Even with their credibility in question by the end of the Spanish-American War both papers held wide circulation as it would seem the readers were interested in sensational stories more than the truth.

In conclusion, the battle for circulation rights between Pulitzer’s New York World and Hearst’s New York Journal embodied more than the cause of increased circulation and rising profits. There is no clear answer as to where the term yellow journalism first began; however the comic strip “Hogan’s Alley” with the character of the Yellow Kid is real and the creator did work for both Pulitzer and Hearst and there was a battle for publication of the strip between both papers lends some idea of reality as to a possible origin of the term.

 

Bibliography

Clark, Carroll D. “Yellow Journalism as a Mode of Urban Behavior.” Southwestern Social Science Quarterly 14 (Dec. 1933): 238-245.

Herringshaw, Thomas W. ed. Herringshaw’s National Library of American Biographies. Chicago: American Publishers Association, 1914.

Morris, James M. Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print and Power. New York: Harper, 2010.

Porter, Ben H. William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years 1863-1910. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Whyte, Kenneth. The Uncrowned King: The Sensationalism of William Randolph Hearst. Toronto: Random House, 2008.



[1] James M. Morris, Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print and Power (New York: Harper, 2010), 206-207.

[2] Kenneth Whyte, The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst (Toronto: Random House, 2008), 83.

[3] Ben H. Proctor, William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years 1863-1910 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 83.

[4] Ben H. Proctor, William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years 1863-1910 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 97.

[5] Thomas W. Herringshaw, Herringshaw’s National Library of American Biographies (Chicago: American Publishers Association, 1914), 352.

[6] Carroll D. Clark, “Yellow Journalism as a Mode of Urban Behavior,” Southwestern Social Science Quarterly 14 (Dec. 1933): 238-245.

[7] Ben H. Proctor, 116-117.

[8] Ben H. Proctor, 117.

Final Assignment

December 13th, 2011

The Legacy of the 1909 Copyright Act

The utilization of copyright acts in the United States has been required to shift in order to meet the needs of emerging technological advancement. Beginning with the first of such acts in 1790, United States copyright laws have been periodically updated to adjust with the demands of copyright holders. However, the Copyright Act of 1909 was distinct, not only due to its longevity, but also because of its effects on the music industry. Despite its later problems, the 1909 Copyright Act would ultimately lead to the modern understanding of copyright in the United States.

The effort to reform copyright law in the early twentieth century was largely the result of the technological advancements that affected the music industry. The invention of player pianos (pianolas) led to a demand from music publishers for stronger copyright protection, while the Aeolian Company, a pianola manufacturer, was steadily building a monopoly on mechanical recording rights from numerous publishers.[1] The legal disputes between composers, publishers, and mechanical recording companies led to the 1909 Copyright Act. According to Stanford University Law Professor Paul Goldstein, “Congress brought phonograph records as well as pianola rolls within the new law, and also took account of the feared Aeolian monopoly by subjecting the right to a compulsory license.”[2] The ramifications of the compulsory licenses could not be overstated. New York Law School Professor Edward Samuels explained this by simply stating that the Copyright Act, “provided that, once a music copyright owner made a recording of the work, anyone else could market and distribute recordings of the same work for a set fee.”[3] The compromise had been set: with composers and publishers being compensated for their music, and recording manufacturers no longer threatened by monopolies on distribution rights, the Copyright Act had seemingly met its goal.

The drawback to this revitalized emphasis on music copyright was that it created a larger population of potential copyright infringers. Goldstein was able to outline the two-fold problem that arose from creating copyright violators:

“First, the 1909 Act provided that for an unauthorized performance to infringe copyright it had to be not only public but also ‘for profit.’ Concerts were admission was charged were an easy case. But was background music in a restaurant played ‘for profit’? Second, unlicensed performances went on in cabarets, dance halls, and restaurants in virtually every city… To police each infringing performance and file lawsuits against them would likely cost more than any damages that might be recovered.”[4]

While the 1909 Copyright Act was intended to mediate between publishers and recording manufacturers, it had done so at the expense of many of their customers. Legal action against them was not practical; a trend that would only grow as technology made the possibilities for information distribution even greater. By 1972, one scholar wrote that 1909 Copyright Act needed to be recalled, in part, because it was no conducive to, “the prospective development of computer-based systems in which entire libraries of copyrighted works will be stored and made available for reproduction and transmission on demand.”[5] Clearly, the implications of the Copyright Act had forced people to seriously consider what qualified as infringement; a consideration that persisted long after the Act had been repealed.

Another significant aspect of the 1909 Copyright Act was that it prolonged the use of renewals in American copyright. Under the Act, copyright was extended to twenty-eight years following publication, with the renewal period expanded from fourteen to twenty-eight years.[6] In a sense, this made the United States copyright law distinct on the international level. Samuels wrote that, “even by 1909, most of the rest of the world had expanded their protection to the life of the author plus 50 years, and that term was seriously considered in the Congressional debates. But Congress, in its wisdom, chose to retain the renewal system, and to limit protection to 56 years.”[7] The continuation of the renewal system was simply another way by which the Copyright Act attempted to re-asses the compromise between copyright holder and customers

The 1909 Copyright Act is a prime example of how copyright legislature has evolved in the United States. While it initially attempted to find a compromise between creators and distributors, its existence brought forth the question of how a copyright infringer should be defined. That question can still be debated to this day. Even after the 1909 Act was replaced by the 1976 Act, many of its precedents managed to survive, either within the legislation or on the public consciousness. 

 



[1] Paul Goldstein, Copyright’s Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 51-52.

[2] Ibid., 53.

[3] Edward Samuels, The Illustrated Story of Copyright (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000), 184.

[4] (Goldstein 2003, 54).

[5] Abe A. Goldman, “Copyright as It Affects Libraries: Legal Implications,” in Copyright: Current Viewpoints on History, Laws, Legislation, ed. Allen Kent and Harold Lancour (New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1972),

[6] Clement Harrison, “History,” in Copyright: Current Viewpoints on History, Laws, Legislation, ed. Allen Kent and Harold Lancour (New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1972), 3.

[7] (Samuels 2000, 206).

 

Bibliography

Goldstein, Paul. Copyright’s Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Kent, Allen and Harold Lancour, ed. Copyright: Current Viewpoints on History, Laws, Legislation. New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1972.

Samuels, Edward. The Illustrated Story of Copyright. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000.

 

 

Preliminary Final Project Post

December 13th, 2011

So I find myself working diligently on this final project that I’m discovering is going to put me in the dirt.  I decided to take on the daunting task of linking relevant posts on the timeline, completely missing the fact that more or less, THEY CAN ALL BE LINKED IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER! What a discovery.  So here’s to sleepless nights until Wednesday night while I try and figure out how many links are too many links, or a way to narrow down just what constitutes enough relevancy for linking two or more together.

Final Project Summary

December 12th, 2011

For my final project, I worked with Christine to standardize all of the citations (image and source citations) on the timeline. We have finished going through all of the citations but we are continuing to fix the citations that have recently been added by other people as they finish their final projects. Christine and I split the work into half based off of when the posts were added to the timeline. I worked on the earliest posts (first use of the word “television) to about the half way point (Opera Browser Developed). We both reviewed each other’s assigned citations as well.  

Here is a list of things we focused on when standardizing the citations:

  1. We used the Turabian footnotes 
  2. We italicized the citations (but not book titles/journal names)
  3.  We used “Source:” and “Image Source:” before each citation (not italicized). The Sources always went before the Image Sources as well.

 

Final Project: The Biebs

December 12th, 2011

Alright. So I wanted to do my final project on YouTube videos, and I was really interested to find out why Justin Bieber’s video for “Baby” is number one.  Logically, it makes sense that a song is higher up than, say, “Charlie Bit My Finger” (coming in at almost 400 million views compared to Bieber’s almost 675 million) because it makes more sense to listen to a song in the background multiple times rather than watching “Charlie Bit My Finger” over and over again.

This video sparked my interest because of the strange culture surrounding Justin Bieber.  He has a huge fanbase, but people actually go out of their way to insult him, way more than other artists.  I suspect a lot of that has to do with the fact that teenage boys have no problem idolizing adult pop stars, but when the star is close to their age or younger their masculinity feels threatened due to the fact that masculinity equals power.  Unfortunately, I could not find much scholarship on this, so I instead looked at the oddities that make this video interesting.  Instead, I looked at the number of comments, the dislike bar, and other quirks that ultimately makes the Biebermania so interesting.

While I was in the middle of this project I remember thinking that I would have never thought I would make an infographic on Bieber’s YouTube presence.  I certainly wouldn’t call myself homophobic, I just have no interest in Justin Bieber, and I did not ever see a way it would be relevant to my life.  But, here we are.  And, I also learned that throughout being called a faggot while playing laser tag and America questioning his sexuality (with no provocation), Bieber is still  outspoken against homophobic bullying.  So, kudos to you, Biebs, and maybe I’ll listen to a song other than “Baby.”

In terms of the style of this graphic, I wanted to make it simple.  I made some graphics for the facts, but ultimately decided to keep it strictly in the YouTube style.

Enjoy, and click the image to make it full size!

Final Project: The Biebs

December 12th, 2011

Alright. So I wanted to do my final project on YouTube videos, and I was really interested to find out why Justin Bieber’s video for “Baby” is number one.  Logically, it makes sense that a song is higher up than, say, “Charlie Bit My Finger” (coming in at almost 400 million views compared to Bieber’s almost 675 million) because it makes more sense to listen to a song in the background multiple times rather than watching “Charlie Bit My Finger” over and over again.

This video sparked my interest because of the strange culture surrounding Justin Bieber.  He has a huge fanbase, but people actually go out of their way to insult him, way more than other artists.  I suspect a lot of that has to do with the fact that teenage boys have no problem idolizing adult pop stars, but when the star is close to their age or younger their masculinity feels threatened due to the fact that masculinity equals power.  Unfortunately, I could not find much scholarship on this, so I instead looked at the oddities that make this video interesting.  Instead, I looked at the number of comments, the dislike bar, and other quirks that ultimately makes the Biebermania so interesting.

While I was in the middle of this project I remember thinking that I would have never thought I would make an infographic on Bieber’s YouTube presence.  I certainly wouldn’t call myself homophobic, I just have no interest in Justin Bieber, and I did not ever see a way it would be relevant to my life.  But, here we are.  And, I also learned that throughout being called a faggot while playing laser tag and America questioning his sexuality (with no provocation), Bieber is still  outspoken against homophobic bullying.  So, kudos to you, Biebs, and maybe I’ll listen to a song other than “Baby.”

In terms of the style of this graphic, I wanted to make it simple.  I made some graphics for the facts, but ultimately decided to keep it strictly in the YouTube style.

Enjoy, and click the image to make it full size!

Final Project: The First Email Message

December 11th, 2011

When I was looking for a final project idea, I saw the post on the timeline titled “First Email Message received at Mary Washington.” The post included the original text and time stamp from the email, then an idea struck me. A documentary could show how the addition of internet and email affected a college campus, and I could use UMW as the case study. I used superfluous film gained during a prior interview with Dr. Ackermann, discussions with Sean O’Brien of the CIO Office, and information gathered through some research on the current email load ont he UMW servers. I edited the video into a 2 minute 40 second video. I rearranged the interview to actually tell the story, and I added affects, transitions, titles, and some information to be used as comparisons. Once I finished the film, I uploaded it to youtube( Link here), and I embedded the film into the post on the timeline that describes the first email message.

 

Link to timeline post here

Final Week

December 11th, 2011

When I chose to do a blog on the Revolutionary War pamphlets, I thought that I was somewhat rolling the dice.  In a way, I still am.

The negative thing about doing this as a project is that the information is relatively scarce.  When I did a Google books lookup, I only found about 2 or 3 reliable sources.  In fact, I don’t know how important they really are.  JSTOR and other search engines are not too helpful.  So it has taken a decent amount of time.

What has done wonders for me is Google images, which is unbelievable.  The sources that I have found through actually pictures of some of the pamphlets has opened up the door wide for me.  I have found several works of importance for the blog.  One of them of course is Thomas Paine’s Common Sense as part of the American Crisis.  I have found several other works though.  I have found some on the Stamp and Intolerable Acts, which I did not think I was going to be able to find.  It was interesting to see the writings actually have an effect on the colonists like it did.  I was shocked to find medical pamphlets from this time frame, especially one from George Washington on the medical field pertaining to war injuries.  I’m still trying to see where this blog is actually going, but I’m pretty sure it will be very intruiging at this rate.

The end of the semester

December 10th, 2011

On Tuesday, we did an exercise that was familiar to all of us in Info Age: we got into groups, defined the “Information Age,” and shared what we decided. It was familiar because it was the first thing we did as a class, fifteen weeks ago, when a lot of us didn’t know each other and had no clue what the Information Age was or what defined it. Fifteen weeks ago, Brian Winston wasn’t enough to make us groan and most of us had never made infographics before–never mind full documentaries. So Tuesday was the same, but it was also different. As a class, we acted silly, cracked jokes, and went on tangents, but we did so in a way that furthered the class discussion and got us all involved in the discussion. We all pulled from what stood out the most to us over the course of the semester; for my group, that was the Vannevar Bush article from the beginning of the semester.

Dr. McClurken said in class that he was proud of everything we had done over the course of the semester, and when he stated it all out–shaping the class, student-led discussion both in person and on that crazy website Reddit, and making an infographic and then eventually a documentary (!), I realized that it really was a lot to do in one semester, and that it was such a huge experience–and I’m proud of us too. I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of it, and not only because I got to see an early 20th century bodybuilder and an enormous hockey stick-wielding polar bear, but because I learned so much about not only the history of information technologies, which I expected from the class, but also the world around me today. I’m so glad I took this class!!

New Documentary

December 10th, 2011

For my Final Project, I wanted to flesh out one of the stories of UMW. How did the campus get connected to the internet and what was the first email? I had several conversations with Dr. Ackermann of the Computer Science department, Deborah Boutchyard of Network and Communications Services, and Sean O’Brien of the CIO Office for information pertaining to my project. To create the documentary, I used film gathered in an interview with Dr. Ackermann, and I used the information gathered in other discussions to provide further comparison and analysis to the story. Dr. Ackermann received the first ever email message at UMW (At the time, the school was MWC…) I learned some interesting facts about the early days of the schools internet.

At first, the connection was a 56K transmission rate. At my home in King George, VA, I have a 56K internet connection through dial-up. I can recognize the speed difference immediately, but how would I express that to students of the modern era or future viewers of the documentary? To accomplish this, I did a little math, failed miserably, and then I found a wonderful resource to accomplish the task much easier. I first calculated the file size of John Mayer’s last album, then I put that number into this webpage (http://bandwidth.com/tools/calc.html). I found out that at the original UMW internet speed, it would have taken over 3 hours to download the album. Now, the album takes less than 10 minutes to download.

Interesting facts like this will hopefully allow any viewers of the documentary to understand the changes of the information age, and how the connection of the campus to the internet exhibits these changes.