Sensationalism! Yellow Journalism! More, More, More!

It’s the day after Christmas, ho-ho-ho-hum. The presents are already open, your elbows are getting rubbed a little raw with all these relatives around, and you’re sick of holiday cookies and candy and fruitcake. It’s all too tempting to jump on the old cellphone and see what snarky things are being said on social media, or flip on the tube and see what they’re saying on TMZ.

WWI put the year 1914 six feet under

WWI put the year 1914 six feet under

Stop! You can do that anytime. Instead, go to the website “Chronicling America” and check out a newspaper that is 100 years old today – the Philadelphia Evening Ledger of Dec. 26, 1914. There was a lot going on, even though the day being reported on was Christmas:

Old newspapers are addictive. Predating TV, radio and (of course) the internet, they were the go-to public source for entertainment. They do, in fact, serve up “history as it is being written,” but they also show you what our society was like at a brief moment in time. The ads are fascinating (“Newton Coal Answers the Burning Question!” “First Canaries Since the War Arrive on Steamer Sloterdyk from Rotterdam!”). Just looking at the differences and the similarities in what was considered news is fascinating. You can get lost in these old papers. My grandpa Phil, on my mother’s side, served in the U.S. Army infantry in WWI; he probably was in some of the battles reported in this newspaper (after the U.S. got in, of course). These are the kinds of papers he, and my grandma, and their parents would have been getting all of their news out of.

Chronicling America, which offers digitized copies of thousands of newspapers of yore, is a site backed by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to the huge trove of searchable papers it offers, the site also selects several papers 100 years old today for your perusal, daily.

Old news is good news. Check it out.

2 Comments

  1. Sue
    December 26, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Oh dear, good info but disappointing, or I missed the link. Headline “Sensationalism! Yellow Journalism! More, More, More!” misleading. Was hoping for some info, background, history, people and what of Yellow Journalism. I have a memory of Ida Tarbell, muckrakers, Standard Oil etc. I was hoping for a clear-cut summary of Yellow Journalism: who, what, where, when, why – and sometimes how. Thanks

  2. Jennifer Gavin
    January 5, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Actually, the term “Yellow Journalism” has its roots in the sensational journalism practiced by Hearst and others; it took its name from “The Yellow Kid,” a cartoon character of that era. //blogs.loc.gov/loc/2012/03/take-those-comics-seriously/
    For the muckraking of Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker and others, I’d recommend McClure’s Magazine, where many of those groundbreaking journalistic pieces first were published. We have Baker’s papers in the Manuscript Division here at the Library.

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