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America as a World Power, 1890-1914 • Spanish-American War
Classroom Activities

Objective: Understand the role of the media in influencing public opinion

Key Questions:

  • To what extent did yellow journalism influence the U.S. decision to go to war with Spain?

Notes on Implementation:

  • To extend the activity, select other events from this era and have students create additional headlines.
  • To provide additional support, give students examples of sensationalist headlines from today.

Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in the America as a World Power Topic Center within the American History database.

Student Activity:

Originating in the mid-1890s, the phrase "yellow journalism" came to signify irresponsible, outrageous reporting. Papers known for yellow journalism printed front-page stories about the shocking, often unconfirmed acts of important politicians, businesspeople, and socialites. Nineteenth-century media mogul William Randolph Hearst is perhaps best remembered as the father of yellow journalism. In the build-up to the Spanish-American War in 1898, Hearst used exaggerated headlines and falsified stories to stoke resentment of the Spanish among Americans. Today, while the principles of yellow journalism are still practiced, the phrase has been largely replaced by a synonym, "sensationalism."

In this activity, you will apply the concept of sensationalism to past events.


Features of Sensationalism:

Exaggeration of events and details
Use of violence or sexually explicit titles and graphics
Stories and images that provoke emotional appeals


  • Read the reference article and view the image of the USS Maine.
  • Review the features of sensationalism.
  • Research current newspaper headlines and identify several examples of sensationalism.
  • Create your own sensational newspaper headline for the sinking of the USS Maine.


Key Understandings:

  • Media can play a powerful role in shaping public opinion

Possible Answers for Activity:

Features of Sensationalism

Exaggeration of events and details
Use of violence or sexually explicit titles and graphics
Stories and images that provoke emotional responses
  • Possible sensational newspaper headlines for sinking of the USS Maine

    • The USS Maine, an American Travesty

    • The USS Maine Will Not Sink in Vain

    • Spanish Terrorists Kill 266 Americans in Sinking of the USS Maine


MLA Citation

"Spanish-American War." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com. Accessed 25 Aug. 2019.

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