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The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst Hardcover – January 1, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The conventional understanding of newspaper magnate Hearst as haunted megalomaniac, cynical purveyor of prurience and jingoistic instigator of the Spanish-American War gets a major challenge in this scintillating biographical study. Maclean's editor Whyte covers the years from 1895 to 1898, when Hearst took a revamped New York Journal to the top of the newspaper market by way of a bitter circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer's rival New York World. Whyte styles Hearst a brilliant and creative media entrepreneur with a gift for managing high-strung (and often drunken) subordinates, progressive politics and a sincere social conscience that animated his paper's crusading journalism. Even Hearst's agitation for war with Spain, Whyte contends, was more justifiable and journalistically responsible than is thought—and may have helped forestall a genocide in Cuba. Whyte considers the yellow journalism slur often hurled at Hearst a compliment; he finds the Journal to be a demanding, sophisticated read that used emotion and drama to draw readers into reporting of real significance. No slouch himself when it comes to colorful profiles and engrossing narrative, Whyte makes Hearst's rise an entertaining saga of newspapering's heroic age, when the popular press became an unofficial pillar of democracy. Photos. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

This work is not only a captivating biography of William Randolph Hearst but also a biography of the key figures in the press during that time and a history of U.S. journalism. Entertaining and well researched, Uncrowned Kingpleased the critics. Although the volume doesn't offer much in the way of new information—other revisionist biographies like David Nasaw's The Chief(2000) also debunk Hearst's sensationalist war in Cuba—Whyte buttresses his claims with solid, colorful research. Some readers may take issue with Whyte's sympathetic and admiring tone, but the author overlooks none of Hearst's flaws. Indeed, critics noted that one of the major flaws seemed to be that the book ended just after the Spanish-American War—and far too soon.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582434670
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582434674
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Being Canadian, Kenneth Whyte's depiction of the Great Publisher is non-biased, and as he states, attempts to simplify and clarify previous biographies of Hearst's early career. With a vastly entertaining writing style, Whyte immerses the reader into an era that is difficult to fathom in today's age. He clearly demonstrates why Hearst's success was as much a result of timing and the state of the world at the time, as it was the ingenuity of a true entrepreneur. Whyte also clears up, once and for all, the debate that Hearst's success was primarily due to his being born into money. Though certainly a factor in his success, lesser men had lost more "spoon fed" funds both before and after him. His impact on Journalism both then and now is dramatic and his accolades justly deserved.
If you have any interest whatsoever in Hearst, the era of Yellow Journalism, or the World at the turn of the 20th century, you will surely enjoy this tome.
I highly recommend it and congratulate Kenneth Whyte on a job well done. What else would we expect from a Canadian journalist?
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Format: Hardcover
Like many people, what I know about William Randolph Hearst I got mostly from the movie _Citizen Kane_. That's not at all fair; even though Pauline Kael said that the movie did better than most biographical pictures in portraying its subject (there's faint praise), Charles Foster Kane was a fictionalized character, dreamed up by Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, even though largely based on Hearst's life. Kane's upbringing and his eventual corruption were disastrous, but these were not really part of Hearst's story. _The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst_ (Counterpoint) by Kenneth Whyte barely covers Hearst's upbringing, and ends around the time of Hearst's marriage, concentrating on Hearst's astonishing early success in the newspaper business. Whyte barely mentions Kane, but fans of the movie will be impressed; Kane as a young man is shown as a vivacious showman and sensationalist, which Hearst certainly was, but also as having sincere concern for the welfare of the public, which Hearst certainly did. And Kane's words that infuriate his financial custodian, "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper," certainly apply. Whyte prompts a reexamination of Hearst, not just as inspiration for Kane, but also a reexamination of his reputation as being the king of yellow journalism; seen in context, Hearst's newspapers' sensationalism was simply the way newspapers in general were conducting themselves, but Hearst's were good at the job, and produced useful insights for their times.

Hearst, like Kane, surely entered the newspaper business with money. He spent some time shopping around for a New York paper to buy, settling on the _Journal_ in 1895.
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Format: Hardcover
Tyler Cowen remarked offhandedly in his review of The Uncrowned King that it was a revisionist biography of William Randolph Hearst. I would not only disagree but would say that the book's lack of moral judgment is refreshing and helpful.

The book looks exclusively at the 3 years it took Hearst to rise to the top of the New York newspaper market. In the process, he unseated two of the greatest editors in American history, Charles Dana and Joseph Pulitzer. Whyte doesn't excuse the tactics that Hearst employed to get there, rather he explains and contextualizes them. We see that WRH certainly exacerbated the growing tensions in Cuba but no more than any of his colleagues. He had a penchant for running fabricated stories but we forget how regularly he used the paper to drive donations to victims of crime and most memorably, to fund the base of the Statue of Liberty.

In the rush to criticize Hearst's excess, many authors ignore the business acumen that put him in that position. He was no Donald Trump - simply diversifying the family fortune. No, according to Whyte, WRH built a newspaper empire out of sweat and blood and energy. He may have been a rich boy but he was an inspiring leader who knew how to play to the strengths of his strange editors and reporters. It was that skill that let him take a bottom tier newspaper and turn it into the powerhouse of the most competitive city in the world in less than 36 months.

The Uncrowned King is long but rarely drags. It's generally positive but refrains from gushing. Lastly, the author bites his tongue when it comes to modern comparisons and business lessons. The book is simply a chronicle of a great and often under-appreciated American icon.
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Format: Hardcover
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) is the most famous newspaper owner in American history. Willie's father was a United States Senator from California and his mother was a society matron who was smart and formidable. Hearst was a millionaire at birth; his father gave him the family owned San Francisco paper to operate and his horizons were limitless!
The young Hearst spent a year at Harvard before dropping out; he toured Europe wooing and winning several fair maidens. He was eclectic in his female tastes enjoying the company of showgirls and ladies from the working classes. He married Millicent who came from show business; later in life he would have a long affair with Hollywood star Marion Davies. Hearst did not smoke, drink or spend his days in slothful ease. He was a workaholic who loved nothing more than operating a newspaper!
This fine book by Canadian journalist Kenneth Whyte is a scholarly and sober look at how Hearst brilliantly steered the New York Journal to the top of the Yellow Press heap in the wild days of Gilded Age newspaper wars. Hearst had to duel with Joseph Pulitzer's World and several other New York Paper in the battle to win subscribers in a competitive field. We forget than in those turn of the century days there was no radio or tv. Most people got their news from the daily newspapers. Often there would be several editions published in a single days. Hearst's New York Newspapers sold over one million copies a day. Hearst would later own a large newspaper syndicate owning papers from coast to coast.
Most of the pages in Whyte's biography are devoted to Hearst's paper's coverage of the Spanish American War.
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