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How the Media Started the Spanish-American War | Citizen Hearst | American Experience | PBS

For months, William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers reported the drama and increasing tension in Cuba, with little regard for the truth. When, on April 20, 1898, President McKinley asked for a declaration of war, Hearst was more than happy to take the credit. His papers read: “How do you like The Journal’s war?” The Spanish-American War was a victory for Hearst, whose paper stood atop the New York market when all was said and done.

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In the 1930s, William Randolph Hearst’s media empire included 28 newspapers, a movie studio, a syndicated wire service, radio stations and 13 magazines. Nearly one in four American families read a Hearst publication. His newspapers were so influential that Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Winston Churchill all wrote for him. The first practitioner of what is now known as “synergy,” Hearst used his media stronghold to achieve unprecedented political power, then ran for office himself. After serving two terms in Congress, he came in second in the balloting for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1904. Perhaps best known as the inspiration for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane and his lavish castle in San Simeon, Hearst died in 1951 at the age of 88, having transformed the media’s role in American life and politics. The two-part, four-hour film is based on historian David Nasaw’s critically acclaimed biography, “The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst.”

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