Yellow Journalism, Muckraking, and Fake News


Just recently, Glenn Beck was interviewed on CNN criticizing the media of dividing America. Beck accused CNN’s Brian Stelter (and the media in general) of “becoming me, circa 2009.” He was – most likely – referring to his divisive reporting on Fox News during the Obama presidency.

The media attack campaign against President Trump has been unproductive to say the least. The outright biased reporting has been a disgrace. It’s not just the coverage of Trump that has been despicable; the coverage of Barrack Obama was also embarrassing. It is difficult for fair-minded Americans to find truly unbiased reporting these days. From Glenn Beck to Sean Hannity, and Rachel Maddow to Anderson Cooper, reporters are doing a disservice to the American public.

This type of “yellow journalism”, “muckraking” or “fake news” is nothing new in the United States. Newspapers since the early years of the republic printed biased articles that had alternative motives. For example, the National Gazette in the 1790s routinely attacked the president at the time, George Washington. He was accused of being a monarch asserting too much control over the American people. It should be noted, the Democratic-Republicans (the rival party of Washington) financially supported the newspaper. The attacks didn’t stop there though. Washington’s Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was constantly in the spotlight for his extramarital affair with a married woman named Maria Reynolds. The pamphleteer, James Callender, helped spread the gossip. Whether it is Maria Reynolds, Monica Lewinsky, or Stormy Daniels, the media loves “sex scandals.”

The 19th century saw its fair share of dishonest reporting as well. Before the election of 1828, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson furiously attacked each other, and the media helped. Jackson’s opponents called him a “jackass”; ironically, he actually liked the sound of the name which is why the Democratic mascot is a donkey to this day. However, Adams and the media was also ruthless to Jackson’s wife, Rachel. She was married before meeting Jackson. She was with an abusive husband, and they ended up separating. There was only one problem, when she started living with Andrew Jackson, she hadn’t officially divorced her first husband. When she did end up marrying Jackson, they hoped this information would not leak out, but it did. The Adam campaign with help from the media tortured poor Rachel; the Massachusetts Journal called her a “profligate woman.” Andrew Jackson would ultimately win the election, but shortly before taking office, Rachel Jackson died. Jackson blamed her death on the brutal attacks she endured.

Glenn Beck was absolutely correct, the media is dividing America. However, it is nothing new. No matter how outlandish Donald Trump might be, maybe it is a good he has declared war on the media.

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