History Repeats Itself: Yellow Journalism in a “Modern” Age

Yellow journalism is a term that describes the sensationalist, money-generating “news” of what was supposed to be a by-gone era: 1895-1898. As we’ve seen in the recent presidential election, yellow journalism hasn’t gone away, it’s just become digitized. Today we know it as “fake news” or “click-bait”, and its only purpose is to entice readers with outrageous¬† headlines and content. If you take the bait and click, the website and its owners make money via ads. abrahamlincolnanddavisSuch news used to be relegated to grocery store check-out stands with tabloid headliners like, “Teacher Has Eyes in Back of Head!” (I remember seeing this one as a child). Those papers are still there and still amusing, but now they join hands with a massive big brother that has become harder to untangle: digital media.

There are satirical news sites, fake news sites, real news sites, and a wide variety of personal and professional looking blogs that, by sheer numbers, can easily overwhelm and confuse busy readers (and who isn’t busy?). The pendulum has swung from a few mass media powerhouses that dominated the market, to many independent news sources. This has been both a good and bad thing.

On one hand are legitimate concerns about mass media bias being fueled by wealthy subscribers, owners, and donations, not to mention mainstream’s ability to drown out or discredit other voices in a seeming David and Goliath scenario. On the other hand, smaller news sources tend to be less verifiable and possibly even more biased, since they are run by just one person or a small handful of people.


Always go to the Source

While “Goliath” has been shrinking for years, “David” now has too much power and sway. Medical advice is liberally given online by those who are not doctors or nurses, journalism is just a fancy catch-phrase for bloggers with bad grammar, and real research is allegedly only done by moms, never by scientists. It is a populist arrogance fueled by fear and mistrust of higher institutions (not entirely unfounded), that “they” are not, and do not represent “us”. “They” will no longer tell “us” what to do.

“Goliath”, in an effort to cut financial corners, has fired many a reporter and photographer, while pushing for ever-faster deadlines. Quality control has been so diminished, mass media has been frequently caught with numerous poorly written articles containing few facts and bad spelling that are merely copied from some other news source, which has been copied from some other news source, which has been copied from a dubious news source. These facts only add fuel to the fire of “David’s” skepticism.

Meanwhile, a great many “David” bloggers also simply copy each others’ posts, rather than creating original content (which takes time, money, and effort). This tactic gives the appearance of legitimacy where there is none. Everybody has an opinion, and it is human nature to be drawn to the most outlandish claims. Moderate views may be wiser, but they are not as interesting. Tell-all stories, conspiracy theories, how to make a million dollars, and cures for everything from fatigue to cancer tend to be the revenue-making content of choice. In this, both “David” and “Goliath” are now on the same footing as the Almighty Dollar rules them both.


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Loura Lawrence is a tireless, creative entrepreneur specializing in media, communications, and the arts. She holds a Liberal Arts degree in English with a background in photojournalism, and is passionate about education, public policy reform, and women's issues. www.RamblingSoapbox.com

7 thoughts on “History Repeats Itself: Yellow Journalism in a “Modern” Age

  1. The problem is deeper than this. There is no way out of the downward spiral until the electorate is afforded the time and incentivized to actually be more responsible with what it accepts as true–and that demands research skills education deliberately disregards today. So long as we are kept poor, distracted, and unable to be citizens, we are subject to fiscal and logistical demands forcing us to hemorrhage money in the forms of bills, utilities, insurance, and constant expenses. Some of these drains of resources we have no need for, but regardless, to which we have negligible psychic resistance. We have neither the capacity nor the inclination to be more aware of what lies or mistruths we accept at face value, and (this is the point) no means to combat a social or political system entrenched against the needs or wishes of a “middle class” having slid downward to a working poor, let alone those even lower economically than what is mislabeled as the middle class. Money serves money and if you have none, you have very little voice in what is supposed to be a government of the people: also, one never designed or intended to be the global cop or a post-industrial empire. Yet, this is what we have and why we are not loved the way we are told (in this country) we ought to be, inherently, because we “are the greatest country in the world.”

    In the United States, the dichotomy of wealthy versus poor is worse now than when the British navy mutinied during the Napoleonic wars, but every time we contest it, we are lured away with trivia or bullied into our designated place. Media only foster this because upholding official sanction, and its expectations, is much more profitable. Historical parallels and their dismal outcomes need not apply.


    1. I feel like we are reliving Industrialism in a lot of ways. Still, I was very encouraged by the turn out and outcries in this election. People are only waiting and watching with peeled eyes to see what happens next, I do not think they will go quietly into the night for sometime.

      Each time in history a government has oppressed the people for too long and too hard, they do rise up. Again and again and again, if they have to.


      1. That’s the silver lining. Tyrants always fall. That is what makes them only slightly more stupid than the ones electing them: history warns them, and the despots believe stubbornly they’re exempt from this fate. They always discover they aren’t.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Everyone always forgets about history. They believe “it can’t happen to me” because of the era, their personal qualities, etc. Historians: the “obsolete” academics!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Each feeds the other and they will only continue down that path until more people step in and stop feeding this, currently, self-sustained monster. The news companies have no issue with putting out cheap content and it costs them really nothing above the seat their “journalist” fills anyway, and people feed that mind set by clicking, or buying, those stories providing that monetary incentive to keep on the status quo. I’ve found it has actually become more difficult and time consuming to find factual reporting that tells the real story when I need to disprove something unfactual someone has shared. Down this path we’ll eventually find an end where we can’t find the facts anymore, they’re suffocated under that giant pile of BS that no one is willing to dig into anymore.


    1. Yes, it is rather a vicious cycle that informs no one and changes nothing. The written word is a powerful thing, but it has been beaten and abused by everyone.


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