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William Hearst – the Mass Media Magnate

Sunday, 16 January 2011

William HearstIt is known that mass media is also called the forth branch of government emphasizing the influence affected by mass media, radio and TV to the public opinion, activity of particular parties and government authorities, including influence of Internet in the latest years. And William Hearst is one of key figures in the history of journalism to use the best endeavors to be the Godfather of mass media as it is nowadays.

William Randolph Hearst, born in April 29, 1863 in San-Francisco to the family of George Hearst, the owner of largest silver mines. His father was a very wealthy person who acquired the rights for San Francisco Examiner. William was grown-up in lavish life and he was promising from the young ages to boast with his unique natural charisma, wit and skills of journalism business. However, Hearst was difficult to control; he never acknowledged the authority of other people neglecting all limitations and borders. That time he was inclined to the special kind of journalism that attracted everybody’s attention. William was dismissed from the Harvard for his yellow experiments when he published an article in the University magazine insulting the lecturers. Though, he gained the Harvard Diploma since the influence of his father was too high.

When he gained the experience from working for The New York World newspaper by the legendary Joseph Pulitzer, William convinced his father to deliver the control rights over San Francisco Examiner to him to create his own publishing business.

The policy that William kept to as one of the greatest pillars of the world press started from reforms he made to editorial policy of the newspaper. The major criteria of any material were sensations. The reporters were not obliged to verify facts and announcements and moreover, they neglected the ethic aspect of materials since the major achievement was the loud and sensational headline of the first page to attract eyes. Hearst was personally involved in creation of the first column of the page. And such policy caused increase in edition as twice as much for the time Hearst managed the newspaper. However, in 1888 he quarreled with his father resulted in articles to accuse municipal government authorities and private companies being monopolists in the sphere of water, heat and transport supply, of corruption and tariff rate increase. Hearst-senior ruined relations with many influential figures because of his son and his activity and he demanded to stop his occupation as soon as possible. William refused doing that which resulted in discontinuance of financing for the newspaper. On the top of it, Hearst disinherited his son. Nevertheless, when Hearst-senior died, 25 million USD was inherited by his wife, and William convinced her to allocate 6 million US dollars to expand his editorial business.

When he moved to New York City, he purchased The New York Journal for 100 thousand USD which made him involved in the strongest battle with Joseph Pulitzer's New York World.

Hearst used the assets acquired from his mother to hire the best reporters and decrease the price for the newspaper to symbolic one cent. This activity pushed him to avant-garde of New York mass media. He managed to outbid for reporters working for his opponents who were re-instructed on the new direction to work. The sensation mattered for all his newspapers. The story about Hearst’s role and his newspapers in the Cuban crisis during 1895-1898 and short-term Spanish-American War. Throughout a long time newspapers owned by Hearst distributed the information about cruel activity of Spaniards in Cuba with no reasonable evidences. Thus, they urged the American society on creating of opinion to war confrontation.

For this purpose, in particular in 1898, a personal message of the Ambassador was stolen from the Spanish Embassy and published to tell bad about American President and finally, in the early 1898, when the reporter working in Cuba stated of no pre-conditions for the war and asked to come back, Hearst replied: «You provide with reportages, and I am liable to ensure the war». So, when the American Battleship Man blew up on February 15, 1898 at the Havana Harbor with no investigated causes to occur the war between the USA and Spain, people were telling that William Hearst had his finger in that pie. Yet, the edition of the New York Morning Journal increased to five million copies in the early years of the war.

Thus, developing his business, Hearst achieved his peak in power and wealth in 20s of the previous century. In 1924 the mass media magnate merged all his newspapers, radio stations, magazines and movie studios into the Hearst Consolidated Publishers Inc., the stability and financial strength of the Company was based upon the public announcements about stability and success made by mass media supervised by Hearst.

The Great Depression time did not bit the Hearst Empire but slightly shattered and Hearst did it by himself, when he tried to make an immediate and obvious influence onto the political life. Hearst primarily supported the assumption of office by Franklin Roosevelt though further he disliked the policy of new administration in crisis, and in particular, with support activity done to mass media workers by trade unions. In 1936 Hearst tried to confront re-election of Roosevelt for another term though his attempts were vain and the government replied soon. In 1937 the government attacked to the media magnate who went too far that resulted in regular tax inspections, arrest of accounts, and publications on financial dishonesty shown by Hearst.

Citizen Kane was found to be one of the most influential movies of all the time from 1941 directed by Orson Welles based on Hearst's life. That resulted in loss more than half of his newspapers and magazines, a radio station and a film company and he was forced to pay 50 million USD to the investors to the Hearst Consolidated Publishers Inc. out of his personal assets.

Nevertheless, Hearst was known for his independence, especially in financial aspect of life, till the time when he died in 1951. However, he never tried to make an influence onto the political life. A stable and financially strong company was inherited by his five children. His son, Randolph Hearst, bequeathed the company to his five daughters in 2000.

Nowadays, in the XXI century, the Hearst Empire of the first media magnate controls over twelve daily newspapers, sixteen magazines, twenty seven TV stations, several cable TV channels with the total cost of 5 billion USD.

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Md. Asraful Alam  - nice to see an article on mass media   |2011-01-18 09:47:51
It's my pleasure to write a few words after going through an article written on William Randolf Hearst. The artice is nice and it gives me very pleasure. However, some information could be added to the article, for instance, how and why he becomes so popular and criticised in the field of mass media.Why do people still remember Mr. Hearst?

Moreover, I will he happy if you please post the name who actually wrote the article on Hearst.

Thank you very much.
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