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40. A Look at a Hearst Editorial (1906)

40. A Look at a Hearst Editorial (1906)

If nothing else we can’t say that William Hearst lacked a flare for the dramatic. This 1906 article in the New York Times shows just one example of how Hearst’s papers dealt with political candidates that they did not approve of. In this case, Charles F. Murphy, head of New York’s Tammany Hall (a Democratic Political machine).

“A Times reporter, turning over the files of Mr. Hearst’s newspaper, succeeded after a long search yesterday in extracting one utterance which savored of kindness to Charles F. Murphy, the man who is now the Democratic candidate supporter. On Oct. 30. 1905, The New York American said: ‘You know that Murphy began poor.’”

But only two days before that, in a speech at Durland’s, Mr. Hearst said this: Murphy is as evil a specimen of a criminal boss as we have had since the days of Tweed. Murphy is as bold a buccaneer as ever sailed political seas.

Two days after the election, one of Mr. Hearst’s newspapers, having fully dissected the character of the Tammany leader, added:

Whether or not we shall transfer C. F. Murphy from Delmonico’s to Sing Sing we do not know yet.

At about the same time-ten months ago-Mr. Hearst’s now ardent supporter was variously described, verbally and pictorially, in the Gubernatorial candidate’s newspapers as ‘the Colossus of Graft,’ ‘The Black Hand,’ and ‘Bill Sykes.’

Whether this kind of public denunciation was good journalism is something to be argued, but it does show the political power that Hearst had at his disposal and more pointedly the fact that Hearst was not afraid to use it.

It also goes to show that personality driven news reporting is nothing new, and the roles of newspapers as a creator of public opinion (as opposed to a mouthpiece for it) has long been established.

For a little bit of context, above and below is a bit of history of Tammany Hall.

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