The Yellow Kid

Posted by on Mar 13, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

Richard Felton Outcault created an odd cartoon character that changed the worlds of publishing, marketing and… possibly popular culture. But perhaps the largest impact that the Yellow Kid had was in the coining of the phrase yellow journalism.

The Yellow KidThe character of The Yellow Kid seems strange by today’s standards. A bald, gap-toothed boy who wore a yellow nightshirt with wording that expressed the boy’s thoughts in a nearly indecipherable patois.

The Yellow Kid was so popular, it created a war between the two great publishers of the day, Hearst and Pulitzer. History tells us that the two publishing giants were involved in using slanted journalism that promoted inaccurate news items through sensationalism.

Wikipedia describes yellow journalism as:

Yellow journalism, or the yellow press, is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.[1] Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.[1] By extension, the term yellow journalism is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.[2]

Campbell (2001) defines yellow press newspapers as having daily multi-column front-page headlines covering a variety of topics, such as sports and scandal, using bold layouts (with large illustrations and perhaps color), heavy reliance on unnamed sources, and unabashed self-promotion. The term was extensively used to describe certain major New York City newspapers about 1900 as they battled for circulation.

Frank Luther Mott (1941) defines yellow journalism in terms of five characteristics:[3]

  1. scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
  2. lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
  3. use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
  4. emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
  5. dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.

Sound familiar?



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