|William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951)|
Randolph Hearst was born on April 29, 1863 in San Francisco, California.
He was born into a family wealthy from his father's discovery of and involvement
in some of the greatest mines in United States history (including the Anaconda
mine, the Homestake mine, and the Comstock load). After attending primary
schooling, young Hearst was off to Harvard, studying in journalism. He worked
on the Harvard Lampoon and was even an apprentice under Joseph
Pulitzer while there.
Due in no small part to his father's fortune, he soon was able to have a newspaper of his own to run. (The newspaper had been earlier won as repayment for a poker debt.) Still at Harvard, he wrote his father, demanding to take over the San Francisco Examiner. While his father wished William to work in managing the family's ranching and mining interests, he had very little interest in the newspaper himself, and allowed the young Hearst to do as he pleased. Soon after, on March 7, 1887, Hearst became the proud owner of The Examiner. From the very beginning, he was determined to make the paper a popular one.
He publicly nicknamed the small paper "The Monarch of the Dailies", and went about purchasing some of the best equipment money could buy. He also hired a talented and experienced staff, and soon, he was modeling his newspaper after the Pulitzer-style sensationalism, in a practice that would later condemn him in the eyes of the world.
In 1895, Hearst went for the "big cheese", and purchased The New York Morning Journal, becoming a direct competitor to his former mentor, Joseph Pulitzer. From the very beginning, Hearst would perform generally immoral acts such as hiring away staff from Pulitzer's paper, The World. Acts such as this ended up throwing the two into a bitter circulation war. The story that caught the attention of Hearst the most was the Cuban Revolution of 1895. He saw this as a key opportunity to promote his paper, and he spent a large amount of effort supporting Cuba Librè, the Cuban insurgent forces. In addition, he would try to disgrace Spain in whatever way he could, always making it as flashy as possible in nothing more than an effort to sell the most papers.
After the mysterious explosion of the U.S.S. Maine, in Havana Harbor, Hearst's actions are thought by many to have seriously influenced the very existence of the state of war that existed afterwards. Hearst traveled to Cuba himself, working with his reporters in the field. One of his reporters, James Creelman, actually took charge of an assault on a Spanish blockhouse and was wounded. Reportedly, kneeling beside him, Hearst said, "I'm sorry you're hurt. But wasn't it a splendid fight? We beat every paper in the world!" Just this simple statement represents Hearst's personality and viewpoints on war and journalism very thoroughly.
Eventually, the war ended, and with it, the common use of such overtly biased practices in journalism slowly faded off, also. In 1903, during his European honeymoon with his new wife, Millicent Wilson, Hearst started his first magazine, Motor. After a brief stint in politics, he went on to become a more legitimate agent for news delivery. He later expanded his business operation into radio and produced movie newsreels, making what would become Hearst Corp. into one of the first real multimedia syndicates.
William Randolph Hearst died at the age of 88 in Beverly Hills, California on August 14, 1951, leaving behind a huge legacy. Today, the Hearst Corporation owns 12 newspaper and 25 magazines (including the popular Cosmopolitan), besides managing other media enterprises. Hearst's opulent 90,000 square foot castle at San Simeon, California is a landmark, and Orson Welles' classic film Citizen Kane is thought to have been based upon his life. While his name is foreign to those who do not know much about the history of journalism, and infamous to many of those who do, even in death William Randolph Hearst's legacy remains that of all that he ever claimed to be - an astoundingly good businessman and wonderfully successful politician.