Yellow journalism was very influential in shaping people’s opinions. In the 1800s and early 1900s, people got their news from the newspapers. There were no other major sources of news. If a newspaper didn’t cover an event or topic, most people had no idea that event occurred or topic was being discussed. Thus, what appeared in the newspapers is what people would know about an event. If a newspaper exaggerated news stories, the average person would not know the story was being exaggerated.
In the events leading to the Spanish-American War, the newspapers exaggerated how poorly the Spanish government was treating the Cubans. As a result, American public opinion turned against Spain. Because the Americans viewed the Spanish negatively, the Americans were ready to pounce on Spain if the opportunity developed. We saw this as an opportunity to gain colonies and become a world power. When the Spanish ambassador wrote a critical letter about President McKinley, our newspapers got a hold of it and published it in the newspapers. This led to a further weakening of our relationship with Spain. When the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, the newspapers immediately blamed Spain. As a result, American public opinion was against Spain, and people wanted to go to war against Spain. This war occurred in 1898. Newspapers played a big role in shaping American public opinion in the 1800s and the early to mid-1900s.