Partisanship and Yellow Journalism Today

Shane Miller 

Recently, two important American news figures, Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon, were both fired from their networks (Fox and CNN respectively). This has driven up the amount of discussion about the current state of American media and the importance of journalistic integrity in the current age. This short editorial will explore the aforementioned importance of journalistic integrity and the effects that partisanship has brought on the circulation of information and news.

Advertisements for three of Fox News’s news anchors, placed in the windows of the News Corp and Fox News building in Manhattan on Tuesday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Partisanship, as defined by Oxford Languages, is “prejudice in favor of a particular cause; bias.” Partisanship has existed since the first humans were born thousands of years ago and has also been a central issue many people have dealt with in the past. Whether it is that you aren’t the “favorite child” or that you think a decision made by an elected official is corrupt and biased, it cannot be understated that partisanship is a central issue in many lives. While the ways that partisanship is introduced into your life have changed, partisanship itself has remained relatively untouched as a concept. The best example of a partisan institution is the concept of a political party, a group of people who represent the interests of a common idea or ideology. Political parties are now a major factor in the spread of news and information across the world, especially in the United States, where the most popular television news broadcasts are made by programs like Fox and CNN, which are both known for their affiliation with the Republican (GOP) party and the Democratic (Liberal) party respectively. 

A picture of Don Lemon during his tenure with CNN. (CNN)

This often leads to yellow journalism, a concept that was coined during the late 1800s, before the Spanish-American war. During the war, two American publishers, Joseph Pulitzer, and William Randolph Hearst, often used sensational headlines and exaggerated stories as a way to improve viewership and ratings for their papers (ironically enough, the Pulitzer Prize is named after Joseph Pulitzer despite being an award for achievements in journalism and journalistic integrity). This led to the first coining of the term “yellow journalism,” defined as the usage of sensational headlines and dramatic stories to improve the ratings of a journalistic institution and to also spread a degree of misinformation and false reports to influence government decisions. Many historians consider Pulitzer and Hearst’s usage of yellow journalism during the late 1800s as one of the driving factors in Washington to declare war on Spain.

A Satirical Cartoon depicting yellow journalism during the Spanish-American War. (Library of Congress/HISTORY)

Yellow journalism also comes into direct conflict with journalistic integrity very often, leading to distrust in journalistic institutions and a rise of extremism. One example of this is the current historic low of trust being held in journalism and major news outlets in the United States (which was touched on in another article I wrote), sitting at a 34% rate of trust. Journalistic integrity, as defined by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), comprises three things. 1. Truth and accuracy above all, 2. independence and transparency, and 3. accountability for consequences. These three tenants are cornerstones of the philosophy of journalism, yet, they seem to be ignored more and more each day by journalists. Despite this rise in a lack of adherence to these standards, independent journalism is becoming more important than ever for the continued spread of news. I personally get my news from independent reporters on the Internet, specifically ones who are physically on scene and take part in whatever story they are writing about. In conclusion, partisanship and yellow journalism are both simply a footnote in the long history of journalism, and the rise of independent news reporters and organizations may help to prevent the rapid degradation of journalistic integrity.

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