Media Explosion

May 3, 2019

In recent events the media portrays their opinion more than ever in reporting of the daily news. Today a common reference to this is fake news.  The beginning of this kind of press can be traced back to an event in 1898: “The Sinking of the USS Maine.” At that time historians used the term “Yellow Journalism”.  Newspapers had began using advertising and to become the mass media they needed stories the people wanted to read so they often exaggerated the news.

The American History I students are studying the Spanish-American War.  The main reason for declaring war on Spain was the explosion of the USS Maine. Nobody knew the cause, and the government cautioned about making an opinion before the investigation. Public opinion began to make its own judged inflamed by the “yellow press”.  The New York World ran the headline, “Maine Explosion Caused by Bomb or Torpedo?” with a graphic illustration of the Maine exploding with bodies being thrown 60 feet in the air. The government had no comment but the public opinion’s decision had been made even though Spain’s investigation had said it was an internal explosion.  Another theory is that it was an accident caused by spontaneous ignition of the coal in the coal bunkers, located near the powder room, that could have heated the gunpowder and set it off.

There have been three major investigations into the cause of the explosion with 1999 being the most recent.  There has been no clear concrete evidence in what caused the explosion. The early reports by the newspapers helped create a response to the explosion. This was one of the earliest events in which the mass media directly affected the judgement of the people, and influenced the government to declare war and establish foreign policy.