Hearst, William Randolph

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Hearst, William Randolph,

1863–1951, American journalist and publisher, b. San Francisco. A flamboyant, highly controversial figure, Hearst was nonetheless an intelligent and extremely competent newspaperman. During his lifetime he established a vast publishing empire that included 18 newspapers in 12 cities and 9 successful magazines. Although he sometimes manipulated the news, Hearst was not afraid to espouse unpopular causes even at great cost in money and popularity.

In 1887 Hearst persuaded his father, George HearstHearst, George
, 1820–91, American mining magnate, U.S. senator (1886–91), b. Franklin co., Mo. He went to California in 1850 and became a mining prospector and geologist.
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, to place him in charge of the San Francisco Examiner, where he experimented profitably with flamboyant pictures, shrieking typography, and earthy, mass-appeal news coverage; the paper remained in Hearst Corporation hands until 2000. In 1895 Hearst invaded New York City with his purchase of the Morning Journal and began a bitter war with Joseph PulitzerPulitzer, Joseph
, 1847–1911, American newspaper publisher and politician, b. Hungary. He emigrated to the United States in 1864, served a year in the Union army in the Civil War, and became a journalist on the Westliche Post, a German-language newspaper.
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's World and the city's other yellow, or sensational, journals. Hearst provided aggressive news coverage, bought distinctive talent, enticed employees of other papers from their jobs with higher salaries and greater prestige, and increased the size of his paper while cutting its price to a penny—a move his competitors were forced to follow. Into the circulation battle between the rival newspapers Hearst brought wild reports of Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain. Other papers replied with further lurid accounts. Leaving the truth behind, the papers' anti-Spanish outcry fanned public sentiment and helped to drive the United States to war with Spain (1898).

By the time Hearst had established his supremacy in "penny journalism," his funds were almost exhausted, but he had gained a foothold for the great newspaper empire he was to erect. The publisher's holdings eventually embraced not only his newspapers and magazines (which included Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and Harper's Bazaar) but also the American Weekly syndicated supplement and services supplying news, features, and photographs.

Hearst served in the House of Representatives (1903–7) but was defeated as candidate for mayor of New York City in 1905 and 1909 and for governor of New York in 1906. While a congressman he sought the Democratic party's presidential nomination without success. His papers originally supported public ownership, antitrust laws, and legislation favorable to labor unions. Support for Franklin D. RooseveltRoosevelt, Franklin Delano
, 1882–1945, 32d President of the United States (1933–45), b. Hyde Park, N.Y. Early Life

Through both his father, James Roosevelt, and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, he came of old, wealthy families.
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's New DealNew Deal,
in U.S. history, term for the domestic reform program of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; it was first used by Roosevelt in his speech accepting the Democratic party nomination for President in 1932.
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 gave way, however, to vigorous opposition to the president's policies on taxes, trusts, and labor, and Hearst became stridently conservative.

Hearst's castle at San Simeon, Calif., erected from 1919 on, won fame for its huge art collections, which often overflowed into warehouses. At his estate Hearst entertained friends in the motion-picture industry, which he had entered as a financier on a large scale. The property was presented to the state as a museum after Hearst's death. His media legacy remains an enduring one, and the corporation he created owns numerous newspapers, magazines, television stations, and Internet outlets, produces television programming, and also has investments in cable networks and electronic and interactive media.


See biographies by J. Tebbel (1953), W. Swanberg (1961), D. Nasaw (2000), and K. Whyte (2009).

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Hearst, William Randolph

(1863–1951) publisher, editor, politician; born in San Francisco. Son of George Hearst, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, he left Harvard without taking a degree and in 1887 took over the ailing paper. Combining sensationalism with a civic reform campaign, he made the paper highly profitable, and in 1895 he bought the New York Morning Journal and successfully fought a circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer's New York World; again, his approach combined the sensational elements (giving rise to the phrase, "yellow journalism") with a populist stance. He is regarded as having aroused the public opinion that called for war with Spain in 1898. Hearst then moved on to start or acquire other newspapers in Chicago (1902), Boston and Los Angeles (1904), and many other cities; he also built such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Town and Country, and Harper's Bazaar into profitable successes; at its peak, his empire included 20 major newspapers, telegraphic news facilities, radio stations, and news and motion picture syndicates. Meanwhile, he had turned his ambition to a political career, but although he served two terms as U.S. Representative (Dem., N.Y.; 1903–07) he could never attain the other offices he sought, including the presidential nomination in 1904 and the nomination for senator from New York in 1922. Fairly progressive in his early years, he had become increasingly conservative—isolationist, jingoist, and just plain ornery, eventually becoming a staunch anticommunist. In 1927 he gave up on New York and moved to his enormous estate in California, San Simeon, where he built a fabulous castle and assembled art and architecture from all over the world—including whole buildings he had dismantled and sent to him. During the Depression he had to sell some of his art collection and he spent his final years as a recluse. Ironically, he would take on a new life as the man who tried to suppress Citizen Kane (1941), in the movie Orson Welles had based on him.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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