How did journalism affect the entry of the United States into the Spanish- American War?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Journalism was a substantial factor leading to the Spanish American War. At the time of the war, when expansionary fever was rampant in the U.S., Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World, and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal were locked in intense competition. Truth often was secondary to newspaper sales, as each sought sensational headlines. The end result was so called "yellow journalism" in which sensational stories dominated the news, regardless of accuracy. A purported civil war in Cuba was fertile ground for sensational headlines.

The sinking of the USS Maine provided a golden opportunity for both editors. Even though there was evidence at the time that the explosion which sank the Maine was accidental and the Captain of the ship urged caution, this was too good an opportunity to pass up. Both papers decried the "dastardly act of sabotage," and offered rewards for the capture and arrest of those responsible. Their headlines often screamed "Remember the Maine!"  The end result was a public frenzy which ultimately led to the U.S. making ridiculous claims from Spain and finally a declaration of war. Although Spain declared war first, Congress backdated its formal declaration so as to appear that it declared war first.