Is Social Media Yellow Journalism?

by | Oct 21, 2023

What is the concept of yellow journalism?

“Yellow journalism was a style of newspaper reporting that emphasized sensationalism over facts. During its heyday in the late 19th century it was one of many factors that helped push the United States and Spain into war in Cuba and the Philippines, leading to the acquisition of overseas territory by the United States.”

College studies

In 1976 I was taking my first class in Journalism at the UW School of Communications in Seattle. Much of the studies in the c101 class included the history of yellow journalism, pitfalls and regulation. In contrast we studied Hitler’s Germany during the 1930s pre WWII. This is when I first learned about the dangers of mass media without regulation or moral values.

The mass media propaganda machine was born under the dictatorships of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China are modern day dictatorships.

I believe 21st Century social media platforms have replaced the ‘Yellow Rag’ and are quickly becoming the most popular way to get the news 24/7. Why? Because it’s more entertaining and easy. It’s a path of least resistance for busy and/or lazy people.

Even worse is the capacity to relate instantly 24/7 to a large group of like minded kindred spirits. In other words, you get a one sided view of life on Earth or a new planet. If a person is interested in new ideas, it’s not easy to compare and contrast nor step outside the box.

Contrast and compare


The goal is reporting the news of the day in professional and morally responsible ways. Strive to maintain high standards of accurate, responsible and truthful reporting. There are some biases, though. We are human. The ethics of journalism is sorely missed as social media rules the day. Who do we trust or believe?


Yellow journalism thrives without a moral compass. These platforms are competitive in seeking out the most outlandish stories with dramatic images of the most ridiculous and offensive. It’s also highly entertaining and addictive. People actually believe this stuff. Ring a bell?


This is dangerous yellow journalism content designed to confuse the public to believe lies. As the old saying goes, “tell a lie over and over again and they’ll believe the lie. Do your own research. Google makes that easy.


Mass media yellow journalism is designed to sway the public into believe lies. A lie will take on a life of its own if it goes unchecked. Dig deep for the truth. Call it a lie without fear. Most will thank you for that.

The power of Social Media

Facebook, Twitter and other platforms are also designed to further confuse and misinform the public. Readers tend to pick lies and believe them depending on preconceived notions and biases. Finding the truth in these media platforms rarely reveal the truth at first glance. Google it!

Oh, what to do, what to do

There are some biases in legacy news sources. In my view, CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS platforms typically offer consistency in reporting accurate and truthful news. I find far less editorial rabbit holes in these news sources. Others like CNN, Fox and MSNBC offer too much editorial content for my taste. All offer the opportunity to compare and contrast. I’d say look at all of them. You decide…

Do your own homework just like in school. Avoid reliance on a single news source. Think big picture to gain truthful and accurate conclusions. Sure, it’s time consuming and requires some discipline, but well worth peace of mind and satisfaction in learning the truth.

Do your home work. Don’t get trapped and complacent with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (X), podcasts and too many other editorial news sources. Be your own editor and take it as your responsibility to do so.

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
View all posts by stevesparks →

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