The Phenomena of Yellow Journalism

expository essay sample: yellow journalism
In America, the majority of people start their day with a fresh newspaper or with news on TV to stay aware of the main events of the day. Journalism is supposed to be providing society with unbiased and relevant information. Unfortunately, it is not always this way; there is a category of mass media that does not meet the requirements of true journalism. Such media publish unreliable or half-truthful information, along with subjective opinions of journalists supported by random facts; generally, such a category of mass media is called “yellow journalism.”

Yellow journalism as a mass phenomena originated in the 19th century in the United States. Back then, there existed an intense competition between the two most popular newspapers of New York: “New York World,” owned by J. Pulitzer, and “New York Journal,” owned by W.R. Hearst (WiseGEEK). In order to overcome each other and sell more copies, these two periodicals had put sensationalism prior to objectivity; hence, instead of providing their readers with unbiased reports about recent events, these newspapers started to produce scandalous stories that had little or nothing common with reality. Articles were written with the primary goal to sell copies through shock.

Today one can witness the same process. News reporters seem to be more interested in producing a catching story that would hold public attention, rather than transmitting facts as they are (Western Journalism). Among the most eloquent examples of how yellow journalism works (and how widespread it is) are the headlines of popular newspapers and journals. Almost all of them are composed in such a way that a reader feels intrigued by the promise of “shocking” details disclosed in the article. This motivates readers to read through the text. The most “shouting” headlines are usually printed on the first page, to be instantly seen by a potential audience.

To be fair, a similar approach is rather often used by serious media resources; since they still need to attract the attention of potential readers to their materials, they can use “shouting” headlines, though in this case the following articles are usually heavily supported by credible evidence, and are not biased—at least not as much as “yellow” periodicals (JournalismAnatomy).

Yellow journalism can be criticized for many flaws: biased information, low credibility, the prevalence of scandal and shock over objectivity, unprofessionalism and discrediting real journalism, and many others. At the same time, “yellow” stories are often more interesting to read compared to serious analytical materials; this is due to the fact that yellow journalism exploits near-scandal topics and methods of presenting information, and often promises readers a sensation—a momentary event that would amaze (and amuse) a reader, but would be easily forgotten (JournalismAnatomy). Perhaps, this is the reason why yellow periodicals are being read so eagerly.

Yellow journalism originated in New York in the 19th century, as a result of severe competition between two major local periodicals of that time: “New York World” and “New York World.” In order to sell more copies, journalists of these periodicals focused on sensation and shock rather than on objective information. This principle remains the fundamental of modern yellow media. They use shouting headlines to draw readers’ attention, and usually present incredible and biased information, supported by several random facts. At the same time, professional serious resources can also use some methods of yellow journalism to sustain their audiences’ interest, though in this case they still produce high quality materials. Unfortunately, despite its flaws (such as bias, unprofessionalism, and low credibility), yellow media remain popular—mostly due to the exploitation of sensational and amusing topics.


“What is Yellow Journalism?” WiseGEEK. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <>.

Carrecia, John. “Yellow Journalism is Alive and Well.” Western Journalism. N.p., 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Yellow or Regular?” JournalismAnatomy. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <journalismanatomynet/fakecontent/fakearticle/574443>.


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