William Randolph Hearst

William Randolph HearstIn 1897 illustrator Frederick Remington telegraphed his publisher to report that all was quiet in Havana, Cuba. But the publisher, William Randolph Hearst, knew that rumors of war with Spain would help him in his newspaper-circulation battle with publishing rival Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the New York World. Hearst wired his famous reply: "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." 

Hearst had entered the New York City newspaper market two years earlier by purchasing the failing New York Morning Journal. With a blend of lurid reporting and relentless self-promotion, Hearst achieved record circulation for the Morning Journal--and became known as an artful practitioner of "yellow journalism." (The term comes from the yellow ink used for printing "Yellow Kid," a cartoon strip in the New York World, which was noted for sensationalism.) 

Bluffing and gambling ran in the family. William Hearst was the only son of George Hearst, a hard-living prospector who had struck it rich. In 1880, the patriarch accepted a small newspaper called The San Francisco Examiner as payment for a poker debt. The younger Hearst, having been kicked out of Harvard University for ill-spirited practical jokes, took control of the paper several years later. 

After publishing a list of idealistic editorial guidelines, Hearst's newspapers became notorious for controversial investigative journalism and openly biased reporting--which proved hugely popular. Hearst's media empire would eventually comprise more than 24 newspapers, a film-production company, and a magazine publishing house that today includes Cosmopolitan and Good 

Housekeeping. The celebrated 1941 film by Orson Welles, Citizen Kane, was a thinly veiled biography of Hearst's rise to media-mogul status. 

Partly because of this movie, Hearst has fared less well in popular memory than his archrival, Joseph Pulitzer, the man for whom the prestigious Pulitzer Prize is named--and the actual inventor of yellow journalism.