The “yellow press” contributed to American attitudes towards Spanish rule in Cuba by making Spanish rule seem cruel and despicable. As Americans read the yellow press, some historians say, they became more inclined to want to go to war with Spain.
The term “yellow press” is used to refer to newspapers in the United States near the end of the 19th century which were more interested in selling papers than in telling the truth. These newspapers were willing to bend the truth, sensationalizing various events to make them seem more exciting and more lurid. If the papers could do this, they could expand their sales because people were always interested in a sensational story.
When the Cubans started to rebel against Spanish rule, some of the yellow press decided that this was a good cause for them to take up. They proceeded to start writing articles that played up Spanish misdeeds that really did exist and even to make up events that never actually occurred. For example, the yellow press paid a great deal of attention to the concentration camps set up by the Spanish leader in Cuba, General Weyler. They published illustrations of skeletal children supposedly starving to death in the camps. They gave Weyler the nickname “Butcher.” Perhaps the most infamous example came when Spanish agents searched three Cuban women on board an American ship in Havana harbor because they suspected the women might be carrying messages for the rebels. The yellow press decried the alleged mistreatment of the women and published this illustration, in which a young woman is being strip searched by a group of men. This never happened, but the yellow press was happy to claim that it did.
By printing stories and illustrations such as these, the yellow press contributed to American attitudes towards Spanish rule in Cuba. The yellow press’s exaggerations helped stir up anger in the US that eventually led to war.