The government’s relationship with the press was good during the Spanish-American War. In fact, the government was glad to have the press reporting the events in the exaggerated way it did.
By the end of the 1890s, the United States desperately wanted to be a colonial power and a world power. There weren’t many places left to colonize so going to war would be a way for us to get lands. However, we needed a reason to go to war. The Spanish government was ruling in Cuba. Newspaper stories reported about how brutal this rule was. The newspapers practiced a method of journalism called yellow journalism. This means to exaggerate events. Since Americans had no easy way to verify what they were reading in the newspaper, they believed the reports. Americans were horrified at how badly the Spanish were supposedly treating the Cubans.
Besides exaggerated reporting, the newspapers were also able to do other things to turn attitudes against Spain. One newspaper published a letter written by the Spanish ambassador that was very critical of President McKinley. This outraged Americans. When the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, newspapers immediately blamed the Spanish before all the facts were gathered. This also whipped up a war spirit in the United States against Spain. It was shortly after this event that we went to war against the Spanish.
The newspapers were very influential in shaping public opinion in favor of this war that we really wanted to fight. The newspapers were also very supportive of the war effort. The relationship between the newspapers and the government was very good during the war against Spain.