Although it is for the most part no longer the case, there was a time when journalism took a hardline stance and became sensationalistic and demanded war for few other reasons than it would sell more papers. It is one of the ugliest things about free speech, how it is capable of inciting widespread violence.
Yes, I think that the newspaper coverage leading up to the Spanish-American war was purposefully antagonistic and sensationalist, because newspapers were patriotic. Newspapers worked with the government and with those who wanted war, in order to promote a narrative that led to war. This happens with every war throughout American history.
I think that newspaper coverage leading to the Spanish-American War were definitely antagonistic and sensationalist on purpose. It is only natural that when a country is at war, there will be some bias and propaganda in the newspapers. This is even more true in the old days when there wasn't much opinions from the public.
Often the people who are pushing for war will lean on the media to write stories in a nationalistic and sensationalistic way to fire up the broad public in support of the war, it has happened time and time again throughout history and has been a unfortunately very successful tactic in getting the public behind a war.
From my understanding the newspaper coverage leading up the Spanish-American War was purposefully antagonistic and sensationalist. I believe it was that way in order to spur purchases of those papers so the printers could in return make more profits. This is what business in media gets you, a lot of bias.