William Randolph Hearst
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During his long lifetime of 88 years, William Randolph Hearst amassed both a personal fortune and newspaper empire that only recently (and many years after his death) was broken up. His was truly a rags-to-riches story, but the road he traveled to money and fame was filled with many potholes and some deep rut.
Hearst was born in San Francisco in 1863, the son of a crude-talking miner who barely read and write. An author wrote that George Hearst then became a rich man when he struck gold in California’s Comstock lode. He later became a U.S. Senator and newspaper publisher.
Even at an early age, William Randolph Hearst showed a penchant for the good life. He attended Harvard and his mother, Phoebe, provided him with a monthly allowance of $150 – an enormous sum in those days. This was to become one of Hearst’s hallmarks, spending more money than he had and even borrowing more than $1 million from his mother when he was almost 50 years old.
Attracted to sensational crime stories early on in his life, Hearst went to work for the San Francisco Examiner, a newspaper his father had purchased in 1880. In 1887, he took over the paper as its publisher, thus beginning a long and controversial reign as a newspaper mogul .
In 1895, Hearst bought the New York Journal and quickly challenged the former stranglehold that Joseph Pulitzer and other leading publishers had on the city’s news. As he did with The Examiner, Hearst quickly went for sensationalism, especially on the front page. In 1901, he purchased the Chicago American, and his influence began to spread rapidly. So visible a person was Hearst that he was elected to Congress in 1902 and even ran for president in 1904, garnering 204 ballots at the Democratic Convention in.
At the same time, an author noted, Hearst and Pulitzer were engaged in a bitter rivalry and began publishing articles that were not entirely truthful. Such exaggerated stories became known as “yellow journalism”.
Since the term is so closely related to Hearst (mostly), as well as to Pulitzer and other large-city publishers, we need to discuss it briefly. As mentioned above, Hearst and Pulitzer began running not-so-truthful stories to attract readers.
According to an author, the term’s origins are thought to have come from the first cartoon character in a U.S. Newspaper, “The Yellow Kid.” Hearst had just introduced the first Sunday supplement, which was run using the color yellow. That color also was used to color the nightshirt always worn by “The Yellow Kid.” The panel, drawn by R.F. Outcault, brought the first measure of humor to newspapers and started an industry within an industry. Pulitzer soon followed suit, and the comic section of most daily newspapers remains immensely with readers of all ages.