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What is Yellow Journalism? Why Supreme Court refused to grant bail to journalist Vishawanatha Shetty

What is Yellow Journalism? Why Supreme Court refused to grant bail to journalist Vishawanatha Shetty


  • GS 2 || Polity || Constitutional Framework || Fundamental Rights

Why in the news?

Supreme Court refused to grant bail to journalist Vishawanatha Shetty

About Yellow Journalism:

  • During the newspaper conflicts between these two prominent newspapers, the phrase “Yellow Journalism” was established. Both of these papers changed the content of their newspapers in an attempt to improve sales, adding more sensationalised stories and expanding the usage of cartoons and illustrations.
  • Today’s yellow journalism isn’t all that different from previous yellow journalism, but it looks to be more common now.
  • While the goal of journalism is to report accurate information objectively, yellow journalism is anything but.
  • The race for clicks and views appears to have generated an epidemic of sensationalised headlines that are often inaccurate and far from objective (i.e., fake news).

History of Yellow Journalism

  • Experts advise giving people what they want to hear, and yellow journalism achieves just that. When two renowned journalists, William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World, were in the midst of a furious rivalry and cut-throat competition when it came to newspaper readership in the 1890s in New York City, the term was coined.
  • This is a broad phrase that encompasses sensationalism, gossip, and scandals, as well as a lot of disinformation and fake news.
  • The yellow journalism is based on the following categories:
    • A-Scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
    • Lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings.
    • Use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts.
    • Emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
    • Dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.

Yellow Journalism Examples:

  • Spanish American War: Yellow journalism helped push Spain and the United States into war in 1898. The battleship Maine of the United States was sunk by an explosion. Tensions were heightened when Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst published false charges suggesting a plot to sink the ship.
  • Samsung and Apple court case: According to one source, Samsung settled with Apple for $1.2 billion in nickels. The storey started out as a joke, but it was eventually published as a true story.
  • Ebola is coming: During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover design featured the words “Ebola is coming” scrawled across the whole cover, as if scribbled in blood. Without needing to be sensationalised, this scary image tremendously accentuated what was a very serious threat.
  • Prince Harry and Megan Markle: When Prince Harry and Megan Markle announced in 2019 that they were giving up their titles to live a more ordinary lifestyle out of the public eye, the media went into overdrive. Their every move was covered, ironically focusing on the couple’s desire to be out of the spotlight.
  • Covfefe: When Donald Trump tweeted out Covfefe, the excessive media scrutiny that ensued can be described as an example of yellow journalism.
  • Baby snatched by eagle: This shocking headline grabbed attention, but the accompanying video was shown to be fake.
  • World War I photo: The photo shows a man in front of a firing squad and the caption said the man was an enemy spy. In reality, the photo was a fake and the photographer was actually posing as a spy. It has since been used as a photo from WWII.
  • Prime Minister called a traitor: ABC News reported that Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu called Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a traitor, but the report mischaracterized his words.
  • J. Simpson: Live reporting of the chase and capture of Simpson sensationalized this tragic case after Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife.
  • Tiger Woods: The news media had a heyday with the story of his affairs, including interviewing sex addicts.
  • Botox mom: This story of a mom giving her daughter Botox and waxings to keep her looking young was a hoax. The Sun, a British tabloid, paid her $200 to say she did it.
  • Octomom: A young woman gave birth to octuplets and became a media sensation.
  • Crazed woman chases Brad Pitt: The headline is an eye-catcher, but she was really just running after him to take a picture.

Characteristics of Yellow Journalism:

  • One column headlines: In this type of journalism, more than one column headlines were used, as well as one-page banners.
  • Priority based news: There was a group of themes that were always given priority, such as politics, war, foreign diplomacy, and sports, which were occasionally given front-page treatment to make them more appealing.
  • Illustrations and maps were frequently utilised in the news in the past.
  • Experiment with illustration: Journalists and publishers were always willing to try out new layouts. It was also common for page number one to have only one article in order to attract the reader’s attention. Journalists and publishers used to experiment with illustration in addition to one article.
  • No verification: As previously stated, there was no verification or source to corroborate the news, making this a critical element of the story.

Impact of yellow journalism:

  • When there is a competition, yellow journalism is perceived to enter the picture. In today’s world, as we’ve progressed into a new era, we’ve become more reliant on technology. Even technology hasn’t been able to change the Yellow Journalism principles.
  • Sensationalism: The use of sensational or startling stories or language at the expense of accuracy in order to pique public interest or arouse excitement.” Sensationalism is the term for this type of behaviour.
    • It makes it difficult for the public to distinguish between what is true and what is sensationalised.
    • This is also deceptive to the public and damaging to the media’s credibility.
  • Polarized society: People have clearly separated themselves into two groups, or two wings, in terms of political ideas, and the polarisation has reached a point where there is palpable animosity for the other side.
    • This is due to skewed news that mostly portrays one side of the topic, polarising society. This phenomenon among youngsters has also increased as a result of this hostility and hatred.
    • People are sometimes affected by contentious or biassed news to the point where they become violent with one another.
  • Loss of credibility: People are hesitant to trust the media because it has lost its credibility.
    • This is a huge loss for journalism since they assume that all news has only one side.
    • Their trust must be restored, and a revival in journalism is required.

How does it improve?

  • Bridge to trust: The truth serves as a bridge to trust, and now is the moment to put things right.
  • Unbiasedness: People today have less faith in the media. This has led people to believe that the current news is all biased and does not tell the whole story.
  • Through research: We have various sources of information available, which is sometimes twisted and is also not thoroughly researched, making the internet both an abyss and a wonderland. This causes havoc and confounds the truth for those who seek to know what it is.
  • Both perspective should be presented: In many circumstances, the truth is only given from one perspective, and that perspective is usually biassed or positive.
  • Avoid TRP race: One reason for such bias is the urge to make a profit.
  • We’ve seen a dramatic increase in openly biased news coverage, particularly on television and social media.

Way forward:

  • Uncover the truth: People can only have faith in journalism as a whole when it consistently provides accurate, verifiable facts, rather than hypotheses and bias, and when it is motivated by only one goal: to uncover the truth for the greater welfare of the public.
  • Ability to hear both sides: Journalists should concentrate on defence and develop the ability to hear both sides of a story, even if it hurts them.
  • Avoid being judgmental: This will inform the public about both sides and allow them to judge who is correct and who is incorrect.
  • Mouthpieces for truth: The media is one of the four pillars of democracy, as well as one of the mouthpieces for truth, which has a level of obligation to sustain and which journalists must take seriously.
  • Present well researched facts: Journalists must present well researched facts, and people should be able to distinguish between facts and opinions because not everything given on television journalism or the internet is news; there are also opinionators who talk from their own perspective.
  • The media should have only one goal: to inform people. By exposing the facts for the public’s benefit.


It is not surprising that yellow journalism has caused a stir in society, given the fact that the media is a very powerful and influential weapon with a wide reach across the country. It has the ability to’make or break’ someone. But let’s not go as far as Oscar winner George Clooney, who thinks the press is “a bunch of jerks.” Let us remember that the common man has the true power to choose what he wants to see, and it is up to him whether he wants to become a puppet in the hands of star-crazed journalists. Furthermore, we must strike a “balance between an individual’s right to privacy and the basic right (of the press) to freedom of expression, thought, and information.”

Mains oriented question:

What is yellow journalism? How does it impact peace of the society? (200 words)