William Randolph Hearst was born into wealth. His father, George, was a man
who struck it rich in the copper and silver mines and land speculation. When he was forty-two,
George married Phoebe Apperson who was a school teacher and also twenty years younger than
her husband. George was absent much of the time and therefore William was raised mostly by
his mother. William Randolph Hearst would eventually operate the world's largest publishing
empire. He had tremendous ambition and seemed to seek power.
Hearst's story begins with his career as a journalist and that, in turn, begins at
Harvard University. Academically, he did not do all that well and was eventually expelled in his
junior year. What Hearst did do successfully at Harvard, however, was turn the Lampoon, a
humor magazine, into a profit-maker. After leaving school, Hearst went to New York and
became a reporter for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World where he studied circulation building
In 1887 he went to San Francisco to take over his father's uninteresting
newspaper, the Examiner.
As the editor and publisher of the Examiner Hearst did several things that would
be typical of his career in newspapers. First, he became a advocate for clean government and
popular rights. He waged campaigns that included ending the domination of the state
government by the Southern Pacific Company, obtaining lower water rates for San Francisco as
well as other civic improvements and reforms. He also obtained the best writing talent by paying
top salaries in order to lure reporters away from other papers. Thirdly, Hearst slanted the news.
He himself once wrote that "The modern editor of the popular journal does not care for the
facts." He wants "novelty" and he "would prefer novelty that is not fact, to a fact that is not...