With the Gold rush of the 1840s and 1850’s, where immigration saw thousands flood into the US with the promise of a new life, America conquered land that was before unexplored. Western America was cleared of its original owners, the Native Indians, and was incorporated into the United States. With this rush of discovery, America as a nation believed, and still does, that they have the right to explore any frontier they desire. The term `frontier` was applied to the experience of crossing a border and being changed by the encounter. According to scholars at the time, this change made the pioneers involved more American than the people back home.
In terms of pioneers, George Hearst was amongst those who travelled to California in 1850 lured by gold-and with hard work and deliberation became extremely wealthy. Interested in a political career he brought the San Francisco Examiner, which was then passed down to his infamous son William Randolph Hearst.
Upon taking over the Examiner, Hearst began to change it completely. Eradicating the heavy textual front pages, he replaced it with pictures and illustrations. In the context of the times, with immigration levels high, and a need for a big audience, he decided the one thing everybody would be able to understand would be pictures. As well as different languages, he also took into account the fact pictures made things easier to understand for the illiterate. He reduced stories, enlarged headlines and eliminated adverts. Obsessed with the front page he created `hooks` to drag people in to wanting to read more; such as “Butchered as they ran”. He knew what would sell and what the people needed as well as wanted.
In New York City, Pulitzer was the newspaper genius. Hearst was aware that one of Pulitzers most appealing and pulling features was his cartoon of the “Yellow Kid”. So in 1896 Hearst stole the strip by paying the cartoonist a higher wage, and placed it in his magazine. Not to be out done, Pulitzer simply hired someone else to copy the comic and at one point there were two papers containing the same cartoon. This Yellow Kid war is responsible for the term “Yellow Press”. A term used to describe the act of inventing sensational stories, faking interviews, running phony pictures and distorting real events. Or what we in England call, “The Red Tops”.
Hearst pioneered in tabloid journalism with features such as investigative journalism. Nellie Bly was the first of her kind to endure such things as pretending to be insane and then reporting from inside a mental institution. This was later continued by reporters for the Daily Mirror almost 100 years later with reporters going undercover on boats taking immigrants from Liverpool to New York.
During the Spanish War of 1897, innocent people were being sent to concentration camps and so, for an angle, Hearst discovered that Evangelina Cisneros, the so called most beautiful woman in Spain, had also been imprisoned. With a hefty pay off, he rescued her, became a hero and got a good front cover.
Hearst's newest paper The Journal eventually broke the 1 million circulation mark upon the beginning of the Spanish war when one of America’s ships, the USS Maine sunk while in Spanish territory.
In regards to crime, both The Journal and its rival The World, competed to become the best. When a mutilated body was discovered on a local beach, The Journal offered $1000 for information on the crime-through thorough investigations led by the paper, an arrest was eventually made and the headline smugly read "Murder Mystery Solved By The Journal".
This act of self promotion and in turn, picture domination, are techniques that were pioneered by Hearst, but could still be seen years later in people like Lord Rothermere for the Daily Mirror, and more currently, The Sun.
He set up the template for all tabloid journalism and in his own way, discovered a new frontier.