• Today's Birthday

    William Randolph Hearst
    1863?1951, American journalist and publisher, born in San Francisco.
    William Randolph Hearst

During his lifetime Hearst established a vast publishing empire that included 18 newspapers in 12 cities and 9 successful magazines. He persuaded his father, George Hearst, to place him in charge of the San Francisco Examiner, where he experimented profitably with flamboyant pictures, shrieking typography, and earthy, mass-appeal news coverage. In 1895 he invaded New York City with his purchase of the Morning Journal and began a bitter war with the other yellow, or sensational, journals. Hearst provided aggressive news coverage, bought distinctive talent, enticed employees of other papers from their jobs with higher salaries and greater prestige, and increased the size of his paper while cutting its price to a penny—a move his competitors were forced to follow. Into the circulation battle between the rival newspapers Hearst brought wild reports of Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain. Other papers replied with further lurid accounts. Leaving the truth behind, the papers' anti-Spanish outcry fanned public sentiment and helped to drive the United States to war with Spain (1898). By the time Hearst had established his supremacy in “penny journalism,” his funds were almost exhausted, but he had gained a foothold for the great newspaper empire he was to erect. He served in the House of Representatives (1903–7) but was defeated as candidate for mayor of New York City in 1905 and 1909 and for governor of New York in 1906. While a congressman he sought the Democratic party's presidential nomination without success. Hearst's papers originally supported public ownership, antitrust laws, and legislation favorable to labor unions. Support for Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal gave way, however, to vigorous opposition to the President's policies on taxes, trusts, and labor. The publisher became stridently conservative. His castle at San Simeon, Calif., erected from 1919 on, won fame for its huge art collections, which often overflowed into warehouses. At his estate Hearst entertained friends in the motion-picture industry, which he had entered as a financier on a large scale. The property was presented to the state as a museum after Hearst's death. The publisher's holdings embraced not only his newspapers and magazines (which included Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and Harper's Bazaar) but also the American Weekly syndicated supplement and services supplying news, features, and photographs. A flamboyant, highly controversial figure, Hearst was nonetheless an intelligent, extremely competent newspaperman. Although he occasionally manipulated the news, he was not afraid to espouse unpopular causes even at great cost in money and popularity.


See biography by W. Swanberg (1961).

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