America as a World Power, 1890-1914 • Spanish-American War
Objective: Understand the role of the media in influencing public opinion
- 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.
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:
- 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
"Spanish-American War." History Hub,
Entry ID: 2042978