FEAR AND LOATHING
The idea of objective truth is very problematical. Yes, it works at certain levell and the newspapers are accurate when they give you the ball scores. They're not so accurate when they give you the prediction of the next day's weather. You can't write history based on this -- ask any historian that and they'll say they give you a sense of the temper of the times, but when you put them up against the documents and the journals and what was really taking place at the time, they're quite far off.
-- Lewis Lapham, Harper's magazine editor and columnist
In Ballyhoo, Silas Bent 1927 book about the sensationalist press, the failings of the yellow newspapers were vividly revealed. Ballyhoo was the descriptive term Bent attached to the editorial products of Hearst and his fellow tabloid publishers. The distortions began, in Bent's view, with the Spanish-American War, but during World War I the cynicism of the mass circulation papers accelerated to the point that they sounded like "the circus broker" selling entertainment, sex, crime, sports, and polemics. Bent called for the increasingly familiar reforms most critics had agreed were necessary: more qualified editors and reporters, vigorous self-criticism, and published corrections. If the press didn't accept greater responsibility for keeping government in line and the citizenry alert, Bent warned, "regulation and inspection" would soon intervene. The public, he believed, would not defend the press against supervision, because people had little respect for the casual invasion of privacy so common in yellow journalism and the generally low level of its moral standards. Looking for a villain, Bent singled out advertising as the agent of deterioration. Advertising had made independent newspapers retreat into conformity, gutless reporting, and an emphasis on amusement.1
Indignation gave way by the 1930s to a more compelling campaign for higher standards. Yellow journalism was not winning the day, and though