In 1896, Pulitzer published a cartoon of his own called “the Yellow Kid”. Yellow kid was an overnight success. Pulitzer built “The New York World” in to the highest circulating and most popular newspaper in New York.
The mix of solid news coverage with sensationalism made for a heady mix and the citizens of New York lapped it up. Eventually Hearst managed to lure many of Pulitzer’s staff to his paper. Their rivalry only served to stoke the competition. The news was largely over-dramatized and altered so that it would evoke strong interest from the public. The term “Yellow Kid” became synonymous with sensationalized stories that discredited the stories of other papers. Somewhere along the way objectivity had been compromised. When Remington one of Hearst’s reporters sent him a telegram from Cuba stating that there was not much going on there, Hearst wrote back saying “you furnish the pictures and ill furnish the war.” Yellow journalism is now over hundred years old.
Back then it emphasized on sex, violence and crime sprinkled liberally with emotionalism, inaccuracies and exaggerations. Most journalists claim that Yellow journalism has now been replaced with informed, intelligent and unbiased reporting. They claim that the Yellow Kid is now dead. But critics beg to differ. Their views are amply supported by the news articles we see in papers these days and the news that is broadcasted to us throughout the day. It is increasingly apparent today that yellow journalism sells. Sex and violence are the most important topics after money.
Television has taken it a step further. The line between news and entertainment is so distorted, one can hardly tell the difference anymore. The newspapers carry articles based on the claims of unnamed sources that are given an opportunity to express baseless allegations. Journalists seem to increasingly display motives that have nothing to do with social conscience and the disclosure of injustice. They are not aimed at uncovering the truth.
They no longer carry the voice of the voiceless. The goal of journalism today is profit and record sales. It’s the new face of yellow journalism-news that is tainted and smacks of unprofessionalism; news that feeds off the lives of celebrities. A good example of yellow journalism is that associated with the death of Princess Diana. To what level does one stoop??? Has the need for sensationalism so superceded the need for truth that journalists are ready to drive the truth in to the ground??? Where does yellow journalism draw the line? Closer home, the much talked about wedding of Aishwarya Rai-one of the leading ladies of Indian cinema to Abhishek Bachchan-the countries most eligible bachelor was covered like no other.
Hours on end, TV channels showed reporters contemplating the type of Mehendi that Aishwarya might choose to wear. It was hilarious, the amount of prime time television that was wasted on the speculations of who would be invited to the wedding. Surely there are more newsworthy stories. Mother Theresa and Princess Diana died on the same day. But Mother Theresa’s death was relegated to just a passing mention, while Princess Diana’s death was glorified a thousand times over with almost all news time dedicated to it.
It didn’t matter that Mother Theresa was a Nobel Peace prize winner; it didn’t matter that she was a renowned social worker; what mattered was the sensationalism afforded by the death of Princess Diana. The absence of truth and propriety in newspapers today, the poverty of serious interest in reporting news as is without sensationalizing it is what makes one believe that yellow journalism has not yet been done with. Its still yellow only a different shade perhaps!