William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) launched his career taking charge of his father’s ailing newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner in 1887. By the 1930s he had built the country’s largest media empire, comprising over two dozen newspapers in major cities across the country, magazines, news and photo services, news, radio stations. radio and film productions. As America’s premier media mogul, Hearst pioneered the sensational and captivating methods that would change journalism forever.
Beginning of life and beginning of editorial career
Born April 29, 1863 in San Francisco, Hearst was the only son of George Hearst, a mining magnate who migrated to western Missouri during the Gold Rush, and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, a former schoolteacher also from Missouri. He enrolled at Harvard, where he worked as editor of the magazine Harvard Pamphlet, but was ultimately kicked out for skipping classes and other mishaps.
While his father wanted him to join the mining company, Hearst was determined to make a name for himself in the newspaper industry. Inspired by the example of Joseph Pulitzer New York World, he convinced George to give him control of the San Francisco Examiner, which the elder Hearst, who won election as a United States Senator in 1886, had acquired as a platform for his political career.
At the age of 24, Hearst used his family’s money to hire the best journalists (including writers like Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce and Jack London) and adopted a sensational style, with catchy headlines and imagery. that brightened up the traditionally dull newspaper style of the day. While the Examiner had been losing money for a long time, it began to generate profits within three years of taking over Heart, with a circulation increasing from 5,000 to over 55,000.
New York Newspaper War and “Yellow Journalism”
In 1895 Hearst headed for New York, buying the failure Morning newspaper. He began to compete with Pulitzer for the attention and money of working class readers, largely immigrants who had made the World the city’s most popular newspaper at the time. Their bitter rivalry played out in the newsprint, as the two newspapers composed their sensationalist style in an effort to gain readership.
This brand of “yellow journalism” reached its peak at the turn of the century, when the two newspapers The hyperbolic coverage of Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain led to increased pressure on the US government to intervene, culminating in the Spanish-American War. During the progressive era, Hearst tackled trusts and government corruption, calling for better working conditions and reforms such as the eight-hour work day. The NewspaperHearst’s draw grew steadily as Hearst earned a reputation as a champion of the American working class against the elite.
Elected to the United States House of Representatives from New York in 1902, Hearst aimed to win the Democratic nomination for president. The following year he married former backing vocalist Millicent Willson; the couple will have five sons: George, William Randolph Jr., John, Randolph and David. He also set out to expand his publishing empire by acquiring newspapers in Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston.
Despite strong support, Hearst lost the 1904 Democratic presidential candidacy to Alton B. Parker, who suffered a resounding defeat to Theodore Roosevelt. Intrepid, Hearst ran for mayor of New York, a race he lost due to ruthless opposition from Tammany Hall’s powerful political machine. After mounting an unsuccessful race for governor in 1906 and another failed mayoral race in 1908, Hearst would never hold elected office again.
Instead, he focused on his media empire, which quickly included newspapers in almost every major American city; journals such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Town and countryside and Harper’s Bazaar; and wire service. Hearst also entered the film business, producing weekly newsreels and drama series that were shown in theaters nationwide. A staunch isolationist, he used his media platform to advocate (unsuccessfully) for the United States to stay out of WWI.
Relationship with Marion Davies, Hearst Castle and ‘Citizen Kane’
By 1917, Hearst had become romantically involved with a young actress named Marion Davies, and was soon directing her career, including roles in many of the films he produced. He and Davies lived together openly, throwing lavish parties for famous guests from Hollywood and elsewhere, even as his marriage to Millicent continued.
In the 1920s, Hearst began building a lavish hilltop estate on nearly 250,000 acres of land in San Simeon, California, which he inherited upon his mother’s death in 1919. Hearst provided at the chateau his huge and ever-growing collection of art, furniture and antiques, and would continue the construction and renovation of the estate throughout his life.
Hearst’s empire took a hit during the Great Depression. Despite his initial support for Franklin D. Roosevelt, he found himself at odds with the Democratic president bitterly, denigrating the New Deal as Soviet-style communism. Hearst’s increasingly reactionary policies alienated many working-class readers of his newspapers and led his influence to wane, as did his visit to Germany in 1934 to meet Adolf Hitler, whose syndication essays he published.
Released in 1941, Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane infuriated Hearst with his brutal portrayal of an obsessive media mogul clearly based on his life. Hearst waged a fierce campaign against the film, attempting first to shut down production, then publish bitter personal attacks on Welles and ban commercials for the film.
The last years and death
Despite his earlier isolationist views, Hearst supported the United States’ declaration of war on Japan and Germany after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He used his newspapers to call for the forcible internment of Japanese Americans, a continuation of the anti-Asian racism that had long characterized his career.
With the economy revived by World War II, Hearst emerged from its financial struggles by controlling a diminished but still formidable media empire. By the late 1940s, however, his health was getting worse and he and Davies moved from San Simeon to Los Angeles to be closer to his doctors. On August 14, 1951, Hearst died in Beverly Hills at the age of 88.
David Nasaw. The Chef: The Life of William Randolph Hearst. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
“William Randolph Hearst’s Campaign to Suppress Citizen Kane. »PBS: American experience. April 30, 2021.
Biography of William Randolph Hearst. Hearst Castle.