When the press fueled wars

Disinformation or the so-called “fake news” is an evil that has been around for a long time and has been refined with new information technologies.

A few years before René Magritte painted a pipe that is not a pipe at all, 31 years earlier, that is, in 1898, William Randolph Hearst, owner of the The New York Journal, was making journalism history, for the worst reasons, when he became responsible for the Spanish-American war fought that year in Cuba.

Hearst disputed journalistic audiences with Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the The new york world and inspiring future of one of the most famous awards in North American journalism, when he sent a reporting team to Cuba hoping to get headlines that would justify the United States' entry into the Cuban conflicts and give it a wider audience.

Hearst's envoys were Richard Harding Davis and Frederic Remington, the latter illustrator. Shortly after they arrived on the island of Cuba, Remington sent a telegram to Hearst saying that everything was calm and that there would be no war and suggesting they return to New York.

Hearst is said to have replied that it was up to the illustrator to provide images, so that he himself, Hearst, could provide the war.

This confession, always denied by Hearst, was quoted by Orson Welles, in 1941, in the film Citizen Kane (The World at Your Feet) and is, if true, the most famous confession of a shameless practice of disinformation with very serious consequences. Hearst encouraged the start of the Spanish-American War in Cuba to sell more newspapers in New York.

This war conflict is a milestone in the history of advertising and the beginning of what is now called yellow journalism, also known by the name of tabloid tabloid journalism, in reference to the size of the paper on which newspapers are printed. Misinformation or so-called “fake news” it is an evil that has been around for a long time and that has been refined with new information technologies.

This phenomenon justifies the current program to promote media literacy that is being developed by the Portuguese Press Association (API) at the MediaVeritas Academy, an active citizenship program in which I am also involved in the name of restoring the credibility of the exercise of journalism.


Author Júlio Roldão, a journalist since 1977, was born in Porto in 1953, studied in Coimbra, where he spent, in the 70s, at the Teatro dos Estudantes and the Círculo de Artes Plásticas, having, in 1984, returned to Porto, where he lives.