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This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR. The book is On The Great Highway: The Wanderings and Adventures of a Special Correspondent (1901) by James Creelman.

This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR. The book is On The Great Highway: The Wanderings and Adventures of a Special Correspondent (1901) by James Creelman.

One of the oldest canards about journalism, a fabulation which is still used to smear journalism, is the assertion that William Randolph Hearst told artist Frederick Remington, “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.”

Writing about this, Creelman tells us he was in Europe and why. This meant he would not have been privy to any telegrams between Hearst and either Remington or Davis.

“It was my fortune to interview Canovas del Castillo, the Prime Minister of Spain, a few months before the outbreak of the war. As I had been exiled from Cuba — whither I had gone as a special correspondent for the New York World — by Captain-general Weyler, the experience in Madrid was doubly interesting.”

“The newspapers in your country seem to be more powerful than the government,” said the lion-headed Premier.”

If you Google for the quote you will get pages of article references to the claim. If you read any of those articles, almost all of them will assert the quote must be true because there are so many references, as in “it is reported.” The primary exception is W. Joseph Campbell who examines this on his media myths website and in his “Yellow Journalism” book.

There is only one source for this claim. One. Source. Only. Ever. That single source is the 1901 book by James Creelman, “On the Great Highway” which is closer to a travel adventure book staring Creelman, as hero, than a contemporary record.

I had this in mind the other day as I was delivering video DVDs to a dance studio from their recital a week before. Their studio location is perilously close to one of my main bookstores, a constitutional weakness of mine. Also, an informational gold mine.

The tactile, olfactory and visual pleasures of a bookstore, like a library, beat Artificial Intelligence search suggestions on Google or Amazon or my own searches. I could never design a digital search as pleasing as the happenstance of spotting surprises on bookshelves and being able to dig in at the moment to get the words and the physical heft of the books in my head.

In that bookstore I ran into a massive Hearst biography which would work for my intended topic. Then, like cleaning a spot on the wall, another book, a Book on Nellie Bly, several on Hunter S Thompson who I hadn’t even thought of yet, then yet another book, and, before long 9 books. Satisfaction!

In nothing flat, a research library.

To the Hearst book. Nothing was found in Hearst’s records. Remington never mentions it. The star reporter and writer Richard Harding Davis says nothing, not even in his “Cuba in War Time” book published in 1898. Davis was the reporter sent to Cuba for a month by Hearst. Remington was sent with Davis and was to have been in Cuba for a month as well, but Davis pushed for Remington to be sent back after only week in country.

And at the time, early 1897, Creelman, who makes this claim was in Europe, having been kicked out of Cuba the year before. So, where James Creelman came up with the telegraph story is anyone’s guess. Creelman writes:

Sometime before the destruction of the battleship Maine in the harbor of Havana, the New York Journal sent Frederic Remington, the distinguished artist, to Cuba. He was instructed to remain there until the war began; for “yellow journalism” was alert and had an eye for the future.

Presently Mr. Remington sent this telegram from Havana: — “W. R. HEARST, 6 New York Journal, N.Y.: “Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return. “REMINGTON.”

This was the reply: — “REMINGTON, HAVANA: “Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war. “W. R. HEARST.

Today, it might seem odd that Creelman notes “’yellow journalism’ was alert and had an eye for the future.” But at the time, “yellow journalism” was a something of a precursor to “Gonzo” journalism. “Yellow journalism” was wide ranging and not easily pinned down, though today most references give it a shallow assessment as sensationalist and a maybe bit smarmy. That would be under selling the brand.

It would also be over selling the influence of media, then and now, to believe that the newspapers could create a war. Especially, because that was already underway, long before Hearst sent anyone to Cuba. There had been a 10-year rebellion from 1868 to 1878, followed by rebellion started in 1895 which eventually became the war the US joined after the USS Maine blew up in Havana, in February of 1898.

Hearst couldn’t possibly furnish any war, even if newspapers had so much influence because the war was well underway before Hearst got underway.

This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR Radio Readers Book Club

REFERENCES

“Gonzo” by Hunter S. Thompson, 2006-7-15, AMMO Books, posthumous tribute with intro by Johnny Depp.

“The Chief” (sub “The Life of William Randolph Hearst” - 2000, Houghton Mifflin, by David Nasaw

“Yellow Journalism” By W. Joseph Campbell - Short review/intro by WJC http://fs2.american.edu/wjc/www/yellowjo/

Media Myth Alert (website) by W. Joseph Campbell - https://mediamythalert.com/

https://mediamythalert.com/2022/03/20/news-media-dont-foment-war-debunking-a-superficial-ill-informed-history-lesson/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Maine_(1889)

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Summer Read 2022: Summer Reading List 2022 Summer ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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