New York, New York–The recent sensationalistic tactics used by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer in this city to increase circulation has led to the emergence of a new term: Yellow Journalism. Although most of the present day 1890’s New Yorkers believe the turn of phrase is new, with first usage attributed to one Ervin Wardman of The New York Times, disturbing allegations against Wardman have been drawn by current and former residents of Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
The small, sleepy Minnesota town is now claiming that jack-of-all trades and one-time resident Charles Ingalls in fact coined the term ‘yellow journalism’ in an incident that is projected to have taken place in the late 1870’s. The Prairie Review reached out to witnesses for commentary, and one Jonathan Garvey vividly recalls the day.
“Well, sure, I remember it,” Garvey tells us. “We was just sitting in church and there was this, uh, you know, scandal of sorts. Harriet Oleson, that was her name, was always starting problems. Boy, she had a mouth on her for the gossip. Well, her cousin, Mr., uh…Sterling, that was it, Murdoch Sterling, well he come to town and brought a newspaper with him. Harriet wrote a column and said some really awful lies about an immigrant family. Charles, though, he didn’t waste no time. As soon as he knew the extent of it, he took advantage of the time he was supposed to be leading us in worship to give old Harriet and Murdoch a verbal what-for. Well, he said what they were doing was ‘the language of yellow journalism.’ At the time I thought it was just some fancy, pretty thing to say…didn’t think much of it. I mean, I didn’t get the whole yellow thing, but I thought it was cool. Anyways, looking back, I wish I had known I was in the presence of a journalism prophet.”
Nels Oleson, proprietor of the Oleson Mercantile, confirms Garvey’s account. “Oh yeah, I was there all right. I thought it was really creative of Charles to use a term no one had ever heard before. And anyway, I hope people remember Charles as the true coiner of that term, because then they won’t forget what Harriet did. Everyone needs to know how wrong she was.”
When we reached out to Doc Baker for comment, he admitted that the term had confused him. “Well, I wasn’t quite sure what Charles was getting at. When I think yellow, I think jaundiced liver. Well, that’s when it clicked for me. Jaundiced livers are bad, so yellow journalism is bad too.”
At press time, Harriet Oleson was sending a telegram to William Randolph Hearst with what she called “an exciting tidbit.”