Cover for Frisken: Graphic News: How Sensational Images Transformed Nineteenth-Century Journalism. Click for larger image

Graphic News

How Sensational Images Transformed Nineteenth-Century Journalism

Pictures, profits, and peril in the yellow journalism era

"You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war." This famous but apocryphal quote, long attributed to newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, encapsulates fears of the lengths to which news companies would go to exploit visual journalism in the late nineteenth century. From 1870 to 1900, newspapers disrupted conventional reporting methods with sensationalized line drawings. A fierce hunger for profits motivated the shift to emotion-driven, visual content. But the new approach, while popular, often targeted, and further marginalized, vulnerable groups.

Amanda Frisken examines the ways sensational images of pivotal cultural events—obscenity litigation, anti-Chinese bloodshed, the Ghost Dance, lynching, and domestic violence—changed the public's consumption of the news. Using intersectional analysis, Frisken explores how these newfound visualizations of events during episodes of social and political controversy enabled newspapers and social activists alike to communicate—or challenge—prevailing understandings of racial, class, and gender identities and cultural power.

"A deeply researched and acutely observed social and cultural history of journalism that, with particular attention to popular visual media, delineates the ways publications' reportorial conventions and practices shaped and were shaped by the era's gender, race, and class relations."--Joshua Brown, author of Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America

"A worthy endeavor that engages major social and cultural issues and makes a significant contribution to the history of visual journalism in the United States."--John Coward, author of Indians Illustrated: Images of Native Americans in the Pictorial Press

Publication of this book was supported in part by a grant from Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.


Amanda Frisken is a professor of American Studies at SUNY College at Old Westbury. She is the author of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution: Political Theater and the Popular Press in Nineteenth-Century America.

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