Insert Sensational Headline Here
"Don't be afraid to make a mistake, your readers might like it." - William Randolph Hearst
Why is a knowledge of history important? Because history is the idiot's guide to the future! History repeats itself. This truism has been observed by thousands of sources from The Bible to Karl Marx. Yet despite the veracity of this statement, we keep falling victim to the mistakes of the past.
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9
Yellow Journalism is a type of news reporting that is generally considered to have reached it's zenith around the turn of the last century. Newspapermen like Hearst and Pulitzer became fabulously wealthy and powerful as masters of highly partisan sensationalism. They used outrageous headlines to sell huge numbers of papers for two cents a piece, with little or no regard for journalistic integrity. Papers were sold on their eye-catching headlines, rather than on the accuracy of their content.
Most people would tell you that Yellow Journalism died out after the Spanish-American war. It didn't. It simply went out of fashion for a while.
“In the pay-per-pageview model, every post is a conflict of interest.” - Ryan Holiday
The Yellow Press is alive and well in blogs like the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Politico, The Drudge Report, and Breitbart make Hearst and Pulitzer look like amateurs in the headline game. These blogs operate on the exact same principles, updated to use modern technology and business models. The headlines are just as sensational. The content is often equally dubious. And the cost to the reader has gone from a whole two cents to nothing. Literally, the only real change is the product. Gone is the need to produce a physical paper. Instead, blogs produce readers as a product for hungry ad execs. Every visit to a blog post, every single link clicked, pays the blog in the form of ad revenue. Time spent on the page is irrelevant, as long as the post received its page view.
When the content being produced is built to be thrown away, and the only action required for the blog to make money is a single click on a snappy headline, what kind of incentive do these websites have to accurately portray the news?
Answer, even less than their historical antecedents.
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