Sensational journalism in the mid-19th century

David W. Bulla, Heather R. Haley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Sensational news stories became longer and longer in the twenty years from 1853 to 1873, while the rhetoric of sensationalism generally showed only modest increases. The size of sensational news stories was growing as the century progressed, although the rhetorical intensity remained relatively stable. Sensationalism in news content has been around for at least as long as the Romans' publishing their public affairs under Julius Caesar in the Acta Diurna. The sensationalized content in the decades before, during, and immediately after the Civil War helps put into context the frenzy of hyperbole, embellishment, and fabrication seen in American journalism in the second half of the nineteenth century. Northern newspapers as a whole had a greater volume of sensationalistic news than their Southern counterparts. Southern newspapers tended to devote a higher percentage of their news space to the military.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSensationalism
Subtitle of host publicationMurder, Mayhem, Mudslinging, Scandals, and Disasters in 19th-Century Reporting
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781351491471
ISBN (Print)9781412851718
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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