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Pulitzer, Joseph

Joseph Pulitzer

Born: April 10, 1847
Mako, Hungary
Died: October 29, 1911
Charleston, South Carolina

Hungarian-born American publisher and editor

Joseph Pulitzer, Hungarian-born editor and publisher, was important in the development of the modern newspaper in the United States.

Early years

Joseph Pulitzer was born in Mako, Hungary, on April 10, 1847, the son of Philip Pulitzer, a well-to-do grain dealer, and Louise Berger. Pulitzer was educated by private tutors, from whom he learned to speak German and French. Thin, with poor vision and weak lungs, he tried to enlist in the army in Europe but was turned down. In 1864 he left Hungary for the United States and became a soldier in the Union army during the Civil War (186165), when Northern and Southern American states fought mainly over the issue of slavery. After the war, the tall, red-bearded youth had no job and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where there was a large German population. Pulitzer worked as a waiter, taxi driver, and a caretaker of mules before getting a job as a reporter on a newspaper called the Westliche Post.

A short time after joining the Post, Pulitzer was nominated (his name was put forward for consideration) for the state legislature by the Republican Party. His campaign was considered a long shot because he was nominated in a Democratic district. Pulitzer, however, ran seriously and won. In the legislature he fought graft (illegal gain) and corruption (improper conduct by elected officials). In one wild dispute he shot a man in the leg for saying that he had written an untrue story in the newspaper. Pulitzer escaped punishment with a fine that his friends paid.

Newspaper acquisitions

Pulitzer was hard-working and ambitious. He bought the St. Louis Post for about three thousand dollars in 1872. He also bought a German paper and sold it at a twenty thousand dollar profit. These profits helped pay for his political activities and for law school. In 1876 Pulitzer was allowed to practice law in Missouri. He started a law practice, but he gave it up in 1878 after purchasing the troubled St. Louis Dispatch at a sheriff's sale for twenty-seven hundred dollars and combining it with the Post. Aided by his brilliant editor in chief, John A. Cockerill, Pulitzer launched crusades against lotteries, gambling, and tax dodging; led drives to have streets cleaned and repaired; and sought to make St. Louis more civic-minded. The Post-Dispatch became a success.

In 1883 Pulitzer, then thirty-six, purchased the New York World for $346,000 from businessman Jay Gould (18361892), who was losing forty thousand dollars a year on the paper. Pulitzer made the down payment (a portion of the total price paid at the beginning of a loan) from Post-Dispatch profits and made all later payments out of profits from the World. Even as Pulitzer's eyes began to fail in the 1880s (he went blind in 1889), he carried on a battle for readers with William Randolph Hearst (18631951), publisher of the New York Journal. In New York, New York, he promised that the World would "expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses" and "battle for the people with earnest sincerity." He concentrated on human-interest stories, scandal (behavior that causes loss of faith in a person), and sensational material. Pulitzer's World was a strong supporter of the common man. It often supported unions during strikes.

Later life

Pulitzer in the early part of his career opposed large headlines and art. Later, as his fight with Hearst increased in the 1890s, the two giants went to ever larger headline type and more fantastic art and engaged in questionable practices until Pulitzer decided things had gone too far and cut back. Pulitzer defended his methods, though, saying that people had to know about crime in order to fight it. He once told a critic, "I want to talk to a nation, not a select committee."

Pulitzer died aboard his yacht in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina, on October 29, 1911. In his will he provided two million dollars for the establishment of a school of journalism at Columbia University in New York City. Also, by the terms of his will, the prizes bearing his name were established in 1915. Pulitzer Prizes are awarded every year to honor achievements in journalism, literature, and music.

For More Information

Barrett, James W. Joseph Pulitzer and His World. New York: Vanguard Press, 1941.

Brian, Denis. Pulitzer: A Life. New York: J. Wiley, 2001.

Noble, Iris. Joseph Pulitzer: Front Page Pioneer. New York: Messner, 1957.

Seitz, Don C. Joseph Pulitzer: His Life and Letters. New York; AMS Press, 1970.

Whitelaw, Nancy. Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds, 2000.

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Pulitzer, Joseph (1847-1911)

Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)

Editor and publisher

Source

Recruited to America. Born in Hungary to a prosperous family, Joseph Pulitzer ran away from home at age eighteen to embark on a military carrer. After the Australian army and the French Foreign Legion both rejected him because of his poor eyesight, he signed up with an agent of the Union army of the United States recruiting in Europe in late 1864. At the end of the Civil War he found himself penniless in New York City and worked at a series of miserable jobs. By 1868, however, he had become a citizen and was hired as a reporter for the leading German-language daily in the nation, Carl Schurzs St. Louis West lie he Post. Pulitzer soon became a top newsman and bought a share of the paper. He was then elected to the Missouri State Assembly and campaigned for the publisher Horace Greeley, who was a presidential candidate in 1872. He left newspapering for a time to return to Europe and marry, but soon returned to the United States and gained membership in the Washington, D.C., bar in 1874.

Papers. In 1878 Pulitzer bought the bankrupt St. Louis Dispatch, merged it with the Post, and created one of the great newspapers in the United States, the Post-Dispatch. Driven by insatiable curiosity and boundless energy, Pulitzer remade American journalism in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century. Claiming to be the champion of the people against injustice and ill-gotten power, he published a statement of policy that read in part: The Post and Dispatch will serve no party but the people; be no organ of Republicanism but the organ of truth; will follow no causes but its conclusions; will not support the Administration, but criticize it; will oppose all frauds and shams wherever and whatever they are; will advocate principles and ideas rather than prejudices and partisanship. At the same time the paper carried on high-minded crusades against monopolistic power, it also printed sensational stories about adultery and scandal. Furthermore, exaggeration and half-truths also appeared in Pulitzers paper.

New York, New Journalism. Although he was a physical wreck from years of hard work, when Pulitzer heard in 1883 that the New York World was for sale, he bought it and quickly turned it into a successful paper. His formula for the New Journalism included sensational headlines and self-promotion. He maintained a strong news department and published an unparalleled editorial page. The World advocated taxes on luxuries, profits, and the wealthy, as well as railing against corruption in government. Those who were suspicious of wealth flocked to the paper, and those who approved of chasing profits disdained it. The World presented news in sensational form; when a heat wave took a terrible toll on children in the slums of New York, the headline in the World read: How Babies Are Baked.

Success. Within one year Pulitzers Sunday edition circulation reached approximately ninety five thousand, and by 1887 it increased to a quarter of a million. By paying close attention to the fact that four out of five New Yorkers were first- or second-generation Americans and by providing coverage of political figures along with entertainment, Pulitzer captured the publics imagination. He talked directly to his readers without being condescending. Over the years the worst sensationalism disappeared from the World, while its commitment to the well-written human-interest story never dissipated.

Later Years. Pulitzer added an Evening World in 1887, and three years later he opened a new building on Park Row, at the time the tallest building in New York City. Pulitzer retired in 1890 but continued to monitor the progress of his papers, summoning editors to his various homes or to his yacht. Among the editors who worked at the World were some of the best in the business, including John A. Cockerill, William Merrill, S. S. Carvalho, George Harvey, Frank I. Cobb, Morrill Goddard, and Arthur Brisbane. In his retirement Pulitzer supported the progressive spirit of reform and muckraking in journalism. He also endowed the Columbia School of Journalism and the Pulitzer Prizes. Chronic illness plagued Pulitzer in his remaining years. He died in October 1911 at age sixty-four aboard his yacht in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

Source

W. A. Swanberg, Pulitzer (New York: Scribners, 1967).

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Joseph Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), Hungarian-born editor and publisher, was instrumental in developing yellow journalism in the United States.

Joseph Pulitzer's father was a well-to-do grain dealer. Joseph was born in Budapest in April 1847. Thin, weak-lunged, and with faulty vision, he was unable to have an army career in Europe. In 1864 he emigrated to America, enlisted in the Union cavalry, and became a mediocre soldier. The 6-foot 2-inch red-bearded youth was among the jobless at the end of the Civil War. In St. Louis, where a large German colony existed, Pulitzer worked as mule tender, waiter, roustabout, and hack driver. Finally, he gained a reporter's job on Carl Schurz's Westliche Post.

A short time after joining Schurz, Pulitzer was nominated for the state legislature by the Republicans. His candidacy was considered a joke because he was nominated in a Democratic district. Pulitzer, however, ran seriously and won. In the legislature he fought graft and corruption. In one wild dispute he shot an adversary in the leg. He escaped punishment with a fine which was paid by friends.

Newspaper Acquisitions

Industrious and ambitious, Pulitzer bought the St. Louis Post for about $3, 000 in 1872. Next, he bought a German paper which had an Associated Press membership and then sold it to the owner of the Globe at a $20, 000 profit. In 1878 Pulitzer purchased the decaying St. Louis Dispatch at a sheriff's sale for $2, 700. He combined it with the Post. Aided by his brilliant editor in chief, John A. Cockerill, Pulitzer launched crusades against lotteries, gambling, and tax dodging, mounted drives for cleaning and repairing the streets, and sought to make St. Louis more civic-minded. The Post-Dispatch became a success.

In 1883 Pulitzer, then 36, purchased the New York World for $346, 000 from unscrupulous financier Jay Gould, who was losing $40, 000 a year on the paper. Pulitzer made the down payment from Post-Dispatch profits and made all later payments out of profits from the World.

In the 1880s Pulitzer's eyes began to fail. He went blind in 1889. During his battle for supremacy with William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal, Pulitzer had to rely on a battery of secretaries to be his eyes. In New York he pledged the World to "expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses" and to "battle for the people with earnest sincerity." He concentrated on lively human-interest stories, scandal, and sensational material. Pulitzer's World was a strong supporter of the common man. It was anti-monopoly and frequently pro-union during strikes.

Pulitzer in the early part of his career opposed the large headline and art. Later, in a circulation contest between Hearst and Pulitzer in the 1890s, the two giants went to ever larger headline type and fantastic "x-marks-the-spot" art and indulged in questionable practices until Pulitzer lost stomach for such dubious work and cut back. Pulitzer defended sensationalism, however, saying that people had to know about crime in order to combat it. He once told a critic, "I want to talk to a nation, not a select committee."

Pulitzer died aboard his yacht in the harbor at Charleston, S.C., on Oct. 29, 1911. In his will he provided $2 million for the establishment of a school of journalism at Columbia University. Also, by the terms of his will, the prizes bearing his name were established in 1915.

Further Reading

Biographies of Pulitzer include Don C. Seitz, Joseph Pulitzer: His Life and Letters (1924); James W. Barrett, Joseph Pulitzer and His World (1941); and Iris Noble, Joseph Pulitzer: Front Page Pioneer (1947). A particularly interesting book written by one of Pulitzer's secretaries is Alleyne Ireland, An Adventure with a Genius (1914; rev. ed. 1937). Julian S. Rammelkamp, Pulitzer's Post-Dispatch (1967), focuses on Pulitzer's early career, and George Juergens, Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World (1966), deals with the middle and late years and contains an excellent analysis of the appeal of the New York World.

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Pulitzer, Joseph

Joseph Pulitzer (pŏŏ´lĬtsər, pyōō´–), 1847–1911, American newspaper publisher and politician, b. Hungary. He emigrated to the United States in 1864, served a year in the Union army in the Civil War, and became a journalist on the Westliche Post, a German-language newspaper. In 1869 he was elected to the Missouri legislature, where he earned a reputation as a liberal reformer. As owner and publisher after 1878, he made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a successful paper.

In 1883 he bought the New York World from Jay Gould. Pulitzer's aggressive methods of building up this paper, its Sunday issue, and the Evening World (started 1887) included the use of illustrations, news stunts, crusades against corruption, and cartoons, as well as aggressive news coverage. William Randolph Hearst established his New York Journal in 1895 to vie with Pulitzer's papers in sensationalism and in circulation. The ensuing contest, with its banner headlines, lavish pictures, emotional exploitation of news—in short, "yellow journalism" —reached notorious heights in the treatment of the Spanish-American War. Later the World became more restrained and the outstanding Democratic organ in the United States, although it sometimes opposed party policies.

In 1885, Pulitzer was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served briefly. After 1890 partial blindness kept Pulitzer from the editorial offices, but he directed his papers no less closely than before. He left funds to found what is now the graduate school of journalism at Columbia Univ. and endowed the Pulitzer Prizes.

In 1931, Pulitzer's sons, Ralph (1879–1939) and Joseph (1885–1955), sold the New York papers to the Scripps-Howard chain, and the Evening World was merged with the New York Telegram. The Post-Dispatch, under his son Joseph and then under his grandson Joseph Pulitzer (1913–93), was cited repeatedly for outstanding journalism and public service. Its editorial page maintained the Pulitzer tradition of independent liberalism.

See biographies by W. J. Granberg (1966), G. Juergens (1966), W. A. Swanberg (1967, repr. 1972), and J. M. Morris (2010).

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Pulitzer, Joseph

PULITZER, JOSEPH


The modern newspaper was virtually created by Joseph Pulitzer (18471911) during the latter half of the nineteenth century. It was a newspaper that seemed to meet the needs of the modern industrial world. Boasting headlines, sensationalism with social conscience, a sports page, a business page, and the comic strips, it was a paper the average person could use to learn about the world and be entertained. This was largely the social invention of Joseph Pulitzer.

Joseph Pulitzer was born in Mako, Hungary, on April 10, 1848, one of three children born to Philip and Louise (Berger) Pulitzer. (Politzer was the Hungarian spelling of their last name.) As a young child, Pulitzer was considered sickly. He was very thin, his lungs were weak, and his vision was poor. His father was a wealthy grain dealer, wealthy enough to retire early and be with his family. When Joseph Pulitzer was six years old, the family moved to a quiet estate in Budapest, Hungary, where the boy was educated by private tutors, along with his brother and sister. Pulitzer was raised fluent speaking Hungarian, German, and French.

The young Joseph Pulitzer was perhaps overly energetic, and was wild about seeking fame. He was brilliant, very independent, and intensely ambitious. There were early signs, extremes in his behavior as a young man, of the emotional problems that would later hurt him as a grown man.

At the age of 17 he left home and sought to join the Austrian Army, the British armed forces, and the French Foreign Legion. He was rejected from each army because of his poor eyesight. At one point during the American Civil War (18611865), a recruiter of the Union army approached Pulitzer. In September 1864 he came alone to the United States to join the Lincoln Cavalry of the Union Army. In Boston, Massachusetts, Pulitzer jumped ship. He then went to New York where he enlisted on his own behalf, thereby collecting his own enlistment bounty. On September 30, 1864, Pulitzer joined a cavalry regiment organized by Carl Schurz, with whom Pulitzer would work after the war.


Pulitzer was discharged from the Union Army in July 1865. He had little money and no prospects for work. He settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where there was a large German community. In St. Louis Pulitzer found familiar customs that reminded him of his European origins. He worked a variety of jobs including a mule tender, waiter, and hack driver. He also worked for several lawyers and, while doing so, studied law books and was admitted to the bar. In 1867 Pulitzer became a U.S. citizen.

Carl Schurz, whom Pulitzer met during his military service, hired Pulitzer as a reporter for the Westliche Post, an influential German-language newspaper in St. Louis. The paper specialized in political articles and was very much committed to social reform in a young United States, which at the time appeared rife with corruption. Pulitzer became very interested in local politics and public affairs, and was an exceptional reporter in these areas. As a result he was nominated for the state legislature by the Republicans in 1869; he won the election.

While serving his term as a representative, Pulitzer also worked as a correspondent for the Westliche Post. In 1872 he became very involved in the Liberal Republican movement, which had nominated Horace Greely for president. After the defeat of Greely, Pulitzer became a Democrat.

In 1872 Joseph Pulitzer bought his first newspaper, the St. Louis Post for about $3 million. He also bought a German newspaper that had an Associated Press membership, which he quickly sold for a profit. In 1878 Pulitzer purchased the St. Louis Dispatch, which he combined with the St. Louis Post ; the newspaper then became the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

As publisher and editor of his newspaper, Pulitzer declared immediately that it would be devoted to issues of social reform. He vowed to his readers that the paper would be independent of political influence, and would instead be "the organ of truth," as he put it in an early editorial. Along with his editor-in-chief, John A. Cockerill, Pulitzer printed verbal crusades against wealthy tax dodgers and corrupt gambling practices. For example, the newspaper published the tax returns of local citizens, wealthy and poor, in parallel columns. Pulitzer and Cockerill editorialized in favor of the building and maintaining of streets and other public structures and were instrumental in starting a city park system. They made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a very successful civic minded newspaper.

Pulitzer edited the Post-Dispatch from 1878 to 1883. From the start he was involved in all aspects of the publication. By 1881 the newspaper had achieved high profits, gained wide readership, and moved to a new building where two Hoe presses were installed. When Pulitzer's health weakened, however, he gave more responsibility to Cockerill.

In 1882 Cockerill shot and killed Alonzo W. Slayback, a local lawyer running for Congress. Slayback, whom Cockerill openly opposed and insulted, had confronted Cockerill and was murdered. Afterward Pulitzer asked John A. Dillon, founder of the Post, to take over the management of the paper. During the aftermath of the scandal, Pulitzer's health deteriorated further and he was advised by his physician to take a long rest. On his way to Europe, via New York, Pulitzer met with an opportunity he could not refuse: the New York World was for sale.

In 1883, when he was 36 years old, Pulitzer bought the failing New York World newspaper, and he applied the same principles that led to success with his St. Louis paper. In 1883 the paper sold 15,000 copies daily. With Pulitzer's genius for sensing what the public wanted, he built a newspaper which, by 1898, was selling 15 million copies a day.

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York World Pulitzer created the modern newspaper, one that caught the democratic and populist spirit of the United States at that time and instituted changes that had never been seen in U.S. papers before. Pulitzer changed the form of how readers received their news, and he created a format and prototype that countless other papers came to imitate.

Pulitzer carefully picked his talent and encouraged them. He paid high salaries to his reporters and demanded hard work from them. He also started the first two-week paid vacation for newspaper staff. Pulitzer's newspapers used illustrations and political cartoons to attract readers and initiated features such as greatly expanded sports coverage. He also began to include line drawings in the newspaper to give variety to the look of different sections of the paper. Pulitzer's newspapers started printing colored cartoon strips known as the "Sunday Funnies," and in doing so captured a new readership for newspaperschildren.

Perhaps Pulitzer was able to do so much in changing the form of the newspaper because his own idealistic, crusading, flamboyant, up-and-down character mirrored much of the sentiments of the mixed character of the United States at that time. He remained an idealist, but he also learned how to sensationalize and exaggerate real issues to get public attention. Pulitzer became the master of detailing lurid stories of crime, sex, and disaster. He had his reporters use bold headlines, and illustrations and diagrams for murder scenes. He was one of the first to understand that a successful newspaper had to entertain as well as provide the truth. This was a revolution in newspaper style which became a model for newspapers of that erasensationalism with a social conscience.

Pulitzer used his newspapers' editorials to speak out against corruption, and his papers uncovered several scandals such as the insurance fraud and corruption in the construction of the Panama Canal. He also crusaded against unsafe working conditions, the Bell telephone monopoly, the Pacific Railroad Lobbyists of 1887, unpleasant conditions in mental hospitals, police corruption and inefficiency, and police brutality. Pulitzer used his power to rally public support around various causes. In one editorial, for example, he urged the completion of the pedestal for Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty.

Pulitzer had married Kate Davis in 1878. The Pulitzers had seven children during their reportedly difficult marriage. When Joseph Pulitzer was in his mid-thirties, his health began to deteriorate. He spent much of his time away from his family, traveling widely. In later years he lived aboard his yacht, called the Liberty, where annoyances and distractions were kept to a minimum. Pulitzer continued to be in constant poor health. He had several ailments including asthma, diabetes, insomnia, chronic exhaustion, and manic depression; by 1889 he had become blind. On October 29, 1911, at the age of 64, Joseph Pulitzer died of an apparent heart attack while aboard his yacht in a New York harbor.

In the years leading up to his death Pulitzer had turned his focus toward a plan to endow Columbia University with a large sum of money for the establishment of a school of journalism. In 1902 Pulitzer had drawn up a memorandum in which he compared the preparation of journalists to that of lawyers and doctors. In 1912, a year after his death, an endowment of $2 million was made to Columbia University, which accepted its first class in the School of Journalism. The 1902 memorandum also stipulated that a portion of the endowment be used for annual prizes to journalists and writers. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1917.

See also: Muckrakers, Publishing Industry


FURTHER READING

Ashley, Perry J, ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Newspaper Journalists, 18731900. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983, "Pulitzer, Joseph."

Juergens, George. Joseph Pulitzer and the "New York World." Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966.

Rammelkamp, Julian S. Pulitzer's "Post-Dispatch" 18781883. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966.

Seitz, Dan C. Joseph Pulitzer: His Life and Letters. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1924.

Swanberg, W.A. Pulitzer. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1967.

Wittke, Carl. The German Language Press in America. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1957.

in the st. louis post-dispatch and the new york world pulitzer created the modern newspaper, one that caught the democratic and populist spirit of the united states at that time and instituted changes never been before seen in u.s. newspapers.

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Pulitzer, Joseph

Pulitzer, Joseph (1847–1911) US newspaper publisher, b. Hungary, who founded the Pulitzer Prize. He made the New York World the USA's largest circulation daily newspaper. He crusaded for oppressed workers and against alleged big business and government corruption.

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Pulitzer, Joseph

PULITZER, JOSEPH

PULITZER, JOSEPH (1847–1911), American editor and publisher who bought declining newspapers and restored them to national influence. Born in Mako, Hungary, son of a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother, Pulitzer emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 17 to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. Discharged from the cavalry in 1865, he went to St. Louis and in 1868 became a reporter for the German-language daily Westliche Post. Three years later he bought an interest in the paper, became managing editor, and sold back his shares at a vast profit. In 1878 Pulitzer took his first big step toward creating a newspaper empire when he bought the St. Louis Dispatch at an auction for $2,500 and merged it with the St. Louis Post into the Post-Dispatch. By 1881 it was yielding profits of $85,000 a year. He left for New York in 1883 and bought The World from Jay Gould, the financier, for $346,000. Three years later, revived by Pulitzer's innovations in mass appeal journalism, The World was earning more than $500,000 a year. He established a sister paper in New York, the Evening World, in 1887. All three newspapers succeeded on a formula of vigorous promotion, sensationalism, sympathy with labor and the underdog, and innovations in illustration and typography. In 1869 Pulitzer served in the lower house of the Missouri legislature, and in 1885 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York, but served only briefly. A man of intellect and energy, he worked himself into a condition which compelled him to live his last years as a totally blind invalid. However, he still directed his newspapers. He endowed the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University and the famous Pulitzer Prizes for journalism. His son, joseph jr. (1885–1955), continued the policies of his father with success as the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but under his other two sons, Ralph (1879–1959) and Herbert (1897–1957) the two New York papers declined and were sold in 1931 to Scripps-Howard.

bibliography:

W.A. Swanberg; Pulitzer (1967); K. Stewart, Makers of Modern Journalism (1952), 86–102.

[Irving Rosenthal]

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Pulitzer, Joseph

Pulitzer, Joseph

(1847-1911)
Pulitzer Prize

Overview

The modern newspaper was virtually created by Joseph Pulitzer during the latter half of the nineteenth century. It was a newspaper that seemed to meet the needs of the modern industrial world. With headlines, sensationalism with social conscience, a sports page, a business page, and the comic strips, it was a paper the average man could take to work with him to learn about the world, and be entertained. Largely, this was the social invention of Joseph Pulitzer.

Personal Life

Joseph Pulitzer was born in Mako, Hungary, on April 10, 1848 and was one of three children born to Philip and Louise (Berger) Politzer. Politzer was the Hungarian spelling of their last name. As a young child, Pultizer was considered sickly. He was very thin, his lungs were weak, and his vision was poor. His father was a wealthy grain dealer, wealthy enough to retire early and be with his family. When Joseph was six years old, the family moved to a quiet estate in Budapest, Hungary, where Joseph was educated, with his brother and sister, by private tutors. Pulitzer was raised speaking Hungarian, German, and French fluently.

The young Joseph Pulitzer was perhaps overly-energetic, and was wild about seeking fame. He was brilliant, very independent, and intensely ambitious. There was early signs, in the extremes of his behavior as a young man, of the emotional problems that would hurt him later, as a grown man.

At the age of 17 he left home, and desperately sought fame in the military. He and attempted to join the Austrian Army, the British armed forces, and the French Foreign Legion. He was rejected from each army because of his poor eyesight. At one point, during the American Civil War, he was approached by a recruiter of the Union army. In September of 1864, he came alone to the United States to join the Lincoln Cavalry of the American Union army. In Boston, he jumped ship. He then went to New York where he enlisted on his own behalf, thereby collecting his own enlistment bounty. On September 30, 1864, Pulitzer joined a cavalry regiment that was organized by Carl Schurz, with whom Pulitzer would work after the War.

Pulitzer was discharged from the Union army in July of 1865. He had little money and no prospects for work. He settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where there was a large German community. In St. Louis, Pulitzer found familiar customs that reminded him of his European origins. So, at age 18, the tall, slender young man, with an odd accent, attempted to make his way in the American frontier. Despite his problems with poor eyesight, emotional ups and downs, and his poor grasp of English, Pulitzer was nevertheless a brilliant and hard-working young man. Pultizer worked at a variety of jobs including a mule tender, waiter, and hack driver. He also worked for several lawyers and while doing so, studied the law books and was admitted to the bar. In 1867, Pultizer became an American citizen.

Carl Schurz, who he had met during his army service, hired Pulitzer as a reporter for the Westliche Post, an influential German-language newspaper in St. Louis. The paper specialized in political articles, and was very much committed to social reform in a young America gone haywire with the corruption of unbridled politicians. Pulitzer became very interested in the local politics and in public affairs, and was exceptional reporter in these areas. As a result, Pultizer was nominated for the state legislature by the Republicans in 1969, and won. While serving his term as a representative, Pultizer also worked as a correspondent for the Westliche Post. In 1872, Pulitzer became very involved in the Liberal Republican movement which had nominated Horace Greely for president. After the election and defeat of Greely, Pulitzer became a Democrat. During the following few years, Pultizer bought and sold various newspapers and became a rigorous editorial crusader. He turned several struggling newspapers into successful, respected newspapers.

In 1878, Pulitzer married Kate Davis, who was an accomplished, beautiful, and socially well-connected woman. By his mid-thirties, Pulitzer's health began to deteriorate. His eyesight became worse, and his mood swings, perhaps suggesting a manic-depressive disorder, were creating terrible personal problems. Joseph and Kate Pulitzer had seven children during their, reportedly, difficult marriage. Apparently, he was a difficult husband, and living with him was often torturous because of his emotional problems. He was described as a distant parent, lacking the confidence to assume a genuinely fatherly role to his children.

Pulitzer spent much of his time away from his family, traveling widely. In later years, he lived aboard his yacht called Liberty, where annoyances and distractions were kept to a minimum. Pulitzer was constantly in poor health. He had several ailments including asthma, diabetes, insomnia, chronic exhaustion, and manic depression; by 1889 he had become blind. On October 29, 1911, at the age of 64, Joseph Pulitzer died of an apparent heart attack while aboard his yacht in the New York harbor.

Career Details

In 1872, Joseph Pulitzer bought his first newspaper, the St. Louis Post for about $3 million. He also bought a German newspaper that had an Associated Press membership, which he quickly sold for a profit. In 1878, the same year he was married, Pulitzer purchased the St. Louis Dispatch. which he combined with the Post; the newspaper then became the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He, as the publisher and editor of the paper, declared immediately that his paper would be devoted to issues of social reform. He vowed to his readers that the paper would be independent of political influence, but would be, instead, "the organ of truth," as he put it in an early editorial. Along with his editor in chief, John A. Cockerill, Pulitzer printed verbal crusades against wealthy tax dodgers and corrupt gambling practices. For example, they printed the tax returns of local citizens, wealthy and poor, in parallel columns. They editorialized for the building and maintaining of streets and other public structures; they were instrumental in starting a city park system. They made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a civic minded newspaper and it became very successful.

Pulitzer edited the Post-Dispatch from 1878 to 1883. He became and remained involved in all aspects of the publication. By 1881, the newspaper had achieved a high profit and had wide readership, and moved to a new building where two Hoe presses were installed. Pulitzer's health weakened and he gave more responsibility to Cockerill. In 1882 Cockerill shot and killed Alonzo W. Slayback who was a local lawyer running for Congress. Slayback, who Cockerill openly opposed and insulted, confronted Cockerill and was consequently murdered. Afterward, Pulitzer asked John A. Dillon, founder of the Post, to take over the management of the paper. During the aftermath of the scandal, Pulitzer's health deteriorated further and he was advised to take a long rest by his physician. On his way to Europe, via New York, Pulitzer met with an opportunity he could not refuse: the New York World was for sale.

In 1883, when he was 36 years old, Pulitzer bought the failing New York World newspaper, and applied the principles that led to success with his St. Louis paper. In 1883, the paper sold 15,000 copies daily. With Pulitzer's genius for sensing what the public wanted, he built a newspaper which, by 1898, was selling 15 million copies a day.

Pulitzer created the modern newspaper, one that caught the democratic and populist spirit of America at that time and instituted changes that had never been seen in American papers before. Pulitzer changed the form of how Americans received their news, and he created a format and prototype that countless other papers came to imitate.

Pulitzer carefully picked his talent, and encouraged them. He paid high salaries to his reporters, and demanded hard work from them. He also started the first two-week paid vacation for newspapermen. Pulitzer used illustrations and political cartoons to attract readers. He initiated features such as greatly expanded sports coverage, and began to include line-drawings in the paper to give variety to the look of different sections of the paper. He began the colored cartoon strips, known as the "Sunday Funnies", and captured a new readership for newspapers—children.

Perhaps Pulitzer was able to do so much in changing the form of the paper because his own idealistic, crusading, flamboyant, up-and-down character mirrored much of the sentiments of the mixed character of America at that time. He remained an idealist, but he also learned how to sensationalize and exaggerate real issues to get public attention. Pulitzer became the master of detailing lurid stories of crime, and sex, and disaster. He had his reporters using bold headlines, illustrations and diagrams for murder scenes. Pulitzer was one of the first to understand that a successful newspaper had to entertain as well as provide the truth. This was the revolution in newspaper style that became the model for newspapers—sensationalism with a social conscience.

Chronology: Joseph Pulitzer

1847: Born.

1865: Emmigrated to the United States and joined the Union army.

1872: Bought first newspaper, the St. Louis Post.

1878: Bought St. Louis Dispatch newspaper and merged it with the Post newspaper.

1883: Bought New York World newspaper.

1902: First plans for a journalism school and literary prize.

1911: Dies.

1912: First journalism class at Columbia University.

1917: First Pulitzer Prize awarded.

Social and Economic Impact

Joseph Pulitzer's approach to printing and publishing a newspaper became the model for the modern press tradition. He almost single-handedly created the style of the American newspaper for the twentieth century. Pulitzer began to recognize the expanding potential audience for newspapers, and explored ways to give new readers of newspapers something for their money. He printed stories and reports of interest to new immigrants to America, to people who loved reading about sports, and even engaged children as readers, by initiating the comic strips.

Pulitzer used his editorials to speak out against corruption and uncovered several scandals such as the insurance fraud and corruption in the construction of the Panama Canal. He also crusaded against unsafe working conditions, the Bell telephone monopoly, the Pacific Railroad Lobbyists of 1887, unpleasant conditions in mental hospitals, police corruption and inefficiency, and police brutality. Pulitzer used his power to rally public support around various causes. In one editorial, for example, he urged the completion of the pedestal for Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty.

With his health failing to the point where he could no longer work, Pulitzer turned his focus on his plan to provide Columbia University with a large sum of money for the establishment of a school of journalism. In 1902, while drawing up a memorandum, Pulitzer compared the preparation of journalists to that of lawyers and doctors. In 1912, with an endowment of $2 million, Columbia University accepted its first class in the School of Journalism. The 1902 memorandum also stipulated that a portion of the endowment be used for annual prizes to journalists and writers. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1917. Dying in 1911, Pulitzer did not live to see either of his plans materialize.

Sources of Information

Bibliography

Ashley, Perry J, ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Newspaper Journalists, 1873-1900. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983.

Juergens, George. Joseph Pulitzer and the "New York World." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966.

Rammelkamp, Julian S. Pulitzer's "Post-Dispatch" 1878-1883. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966.

Seitz, Dan C. Joseph Pulitzer: His Life and Letters. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1924.

Swanberg, W.A. Pulitzer. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1967.

Wittke, Carl. The German Language Press in America. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1957.

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Pulitzer, Joseph

Joseph Pulitzer

Born April 10, 1847

Mako, Hungary

Died October 29, 1911

Charleston, South Carolina

Publisher who created mass-circulation newspapers that strongly affected government policy

"Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery."

J oseph Pulitzer is considered the inventor of the modern newspaper as a part of the mass media, which today refers to an entertainment or information source, including print and electronic sources, designed to appeal to a very large audience rather than to a narrower audience of people with special interests. He turned newspapers, which had been largely devoted to political parties and causes, into an entertainment medium. By doing so, Pulitzer achieved political influence for newspapers that had not existed before.

Young man overcomes early odds

Joseph Pulitzer was born in Mako, Hungary, the son of a well-to-do grain merchant. Pulitzer's father Philip was from a Hungarian-German Jewish family; his mother, Louise, was a Roman Catholic. When Joseph Pulitzer was six, his father had made enough money to retire to Budapest, Hungary's capital, where he paid for private tutors to educate his children. Pulitzer grew up speaking three languages fluently: Hungarian, German, and French.

Pulitzer was never healthy, not even as a young boy. He was thin, his lungs were weak, and his vision was poor. Poor health would plague Pulitzer throughout his life.

By age seventeen, Pulitzer was restless, ambitious, and eager for adventure. He tried to enlist in the Austrian Army, but he was turned down because of his poor eyesight. He was rejected in turn by the French Foreign Legion and the British Army. Finally, while traveling in Germany, Pulitzer met an agent for the U.S. Army looking for soldiers to fight in the American Civil War (1861–65). During the Civil War, American young men were subjected to being drafted, or ordered to report for service, but they could avoid serving by paying a fee of $300. This money was then used to attract other men to fight in the Army. American recruiters often looked for candidates in Germany.

Pulitzer enlists, moves to America

Accepted as a soldier at last, Pulitzer sailed for the United States, where he had a plan to collect money for enlisting in the Army to fight for the North in the Civil War. When his ship was near Boston, Massachusetts, on its way to New York, Pulitzer jumped overboard and swam to shore. His plan was to enlist and collect the enlistment bonus instead of sharing it with the agent who recruited him in Germany.

The year was 1864. On September 30, Pulitzer enlisted in a cavalry regiment, or horse-mounted troops, being organized by Carl Schurz (1829–1906), a prominent German American who would be highly influential later in Pulitzer's life. Pulitzer's military career did not last long. He was a soldier in the Union cavalry for less than a year. The Civil War ended just six months after he joined the Army, and Pulitzer was discharged from the Army in July 1865.

What was a tall, bearded young man to do, especially one who did not speak English well and had little money? Pulitzer decided to head for St. Louis, Missouri, where there was a large colony of German-speaking immigrants, including his regiment leader, Schurz.

In St. Louis, Pulitzer did what many other young immigrants did: he found a series of odd jobs to feed himself and pay rent. Pulitzer tended mules, waited on tables in a restaurant, and drove a horse-drawn taxi. As a well-educated young man who had grown up in comfortable circumstances, Pulitzer did not settle for unskilled jobs for long. He worked for several lawyers, which was the way people studied the law in the nineteenth century, and within two years he had learned enough about the law to be admitted to the bar, which qualified him to practice law. But the law was not to be his future.

Pulitzer, Schurz, and Liberal Republicans

Joseph Pulitzer got his start in journalism when the commander of his Civil War army unit, Carl Schurz, offered him a job on the Westliche Post, a German-language paper of which Schurz was editor and part owner. Schurz himself was an immigrant from Germany who was active in the Republican Party.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, journalism and politics were closely linked. Schurz had edited several papers in Midwestern cities before coming to St. Louis, and he was regarded as a spokesman for the country's large and influential German American community. Schurz had always been an advocate of honest government and was a stern critic of the policies of President Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885; served 1869–77) following the Civil War.

Schurz was elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri in 1869 and was active in the unsuccessful 1872 presidential campaign of Horace Greeley (1811–1872) as a Liberal Republican and Democrat. (Greeley lost to President Grant and, in fact, died less than a month after the election.)

In St. Louis, his acquaintance from the war, Schurz, was editor and part-owner of a German-language newspaper called the Westliche Post, which was influential among the city's large German population. Schurz offered Pulitzer a position as a reporter on his newspaper. Pulitzer threw himself into his new job, following Schurz's lead in uncovering government corruption in which city officials accepted bribes, or payoffs, from companies doing business with the city. Pulitzer quickly gained a reputation in the city, and in 1869 he was nominated to run for the state legislature as a Republican. Although his district usually voted for Democrats, Pulitzer was elected and served in the legislature while still writing for the Westliche Post.

Pulitzer becomes a newspaper publisher

In 1872, Pulitzer made what may have been the single biggest move in his life: He bought the struggling St. Louis Post for about $3,000 (worth about $40,000 in the twenty-first century). The same year, he acquired the Westliche Post, which he soon sold at a profit. Pulitzer had left the world of German-language journalism and become owner and editor of a small English-language paper in St. Louis.

The new newspaper publisher threw himself into his job. Already involved in the Liberal Republican crusade against government corruption, Pulitzer used his newspaper to advance the social causes in which he believed. Working with editor John Cockerill (1845–1896), Pulitzer enthusiastically uncovered wrongdoing by city officials, campaigned for street repairs, and fought against gambling and a public lottery. In the nineteenth century, most newspapers were closely linked to a political party; Pulitzer changed this tradition with his paper when he declared it would be an independent, reliable "organ of truth," as Pulitzer wrote in an editorial. Although Pulitzer continued to be associated with the Liberal Republicans, his newspaper became part of the community, read by people of many different parties. Six years after acquiring the Post, Pulitzer bought another paper in St. Louis, the Dispatch, and combined it with the Post to form the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which is still the leading paper in St. Louis a century and a half later.

In the same year that he bought the Dispatch, Pulitzer married Kate Davis, who was well connected in St. Louis society. As owner of a successful and leading newspaper in the city, Pulitzer and his wife were almost members of the city's high society. Some people in the city never let Pulitzer forget that his father had been Jewish (he had been called "Joey the Jew" when he first arrived). There was something about this upstart immigrant from Hungary that did not quite fit with the fancy clothes and top hats that gentlemen in St. Louis wore in the 1870s and 1880s. The couple eventually had seven children, but by most accounts theirs was not a happy marriage. Within a decade, Pulitzer's health began to fail and he began suffering a series of emotional problems that made him difficult to live with as a husband or as a father.

Pulitzer in New York

In 1882, a shooting involving his editor Joseph Cockerill (see box) added to other strains on Pulitzer's health. The publisher's doctor advised him to take a long, restful vacation in Europe. On his way, however, Pulitzer stopped in New York, where he received an offer to buy the New York World. Although he had made a success of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, owning a newspaper in the nation's biggest city and cultural capital was in a different league altogether. The World was failing and its owner, businessman Jay Gould (1836–1892), wanted to sell. Pulitzer could not resist the challenge.

High Drama in the Newsroom

Editing a newspaper in the nineteenth century was not always a calm job. On October 13, 1882, an attorney, Civil War veteran, and former candidate for U.S. Congress named Alonzo W. Slayback (1838–1882) burst into the editorial offices of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and confronted editor John Cockerill (1845–1896). His friends claimed that Slayback, accompanied by another attorney, planned to demand an apology for a story in the paper, and perhaps to slap the editor in the face for good measure.

Cockerill, who had a running feud with Slayback, became alarmed and picked up a revolver from his desk. He shot Slayback once, in the heart, killing him. Cockerill insisted he had acted in self-defense and was never charged with murder.

Pulitzer immediately threw himself into improving the fortunes of his new newspaper, which had a circulation of about fifteen thousand copies a day. In an effort to compete with the crowded field of daily newspapers in New York, in the era before radio or television, Pulitzer introduced innovations, or new ideas, that would change the face of the entire newspaper industry. In addition to the usual mixture of politics and scandal, Pulitzer added stories about sports to appeal to people interested in that topic. The World also helped draw its readers into the world of crime by printing diagrams of crime scenes and publishing details of murder. He even sought to interest young children with the introduction of color cartoons.

Pulitzer experimented with the appearance of his paper. Previously, newspapers looked like a solid mass of gray type. Pulitzer introduced BIG, BOLD HEADLINES that grabbed the readers' attention. His coverage of crime stories later came to be called sensationalism: Screaming headlines about crimes that may have been routine in New York, but which Pulitzer's headlines made seem dramatic and sensational—meant to arouse the senses.

As publisher of the World, Pulitzer was in direct competition for readers with another publisher who had started in the West, William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951) of San Francisco, who bought the New York Morning Journal in 1895 and launched an evening edition of the paper the following year. Hearst imitated many of Pulitzer's innovations, and the two were fierce competitors, each straining to outdo the other in presenting sensational stories and giant headlines designed to make readers pick one paper over the other on newsstands on the way home from work in the evening. The 1890s were an era when most newspapers were bought from newsstands, rather than being delivered to the home, and when reading the paper was the evening's entertainment.

At the same time, Pulitzer did not lose sight of his earlier focus on government reform. He continued his earlier community crusading with stories about municipal corruption and the need for political reform.

The competition between Pulitzer and Hearst reached its peak in February 1898 when a mysterious explosion rocked the U.S. Navy battleship U.S.S. Maine, anchored in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. The ship sank, killing 260 sailors. At the time, Cuba was a possession of Spain, which was putting down a revolt. Pulitzer and Hearst had already been competing to report alleged atrocities, or claims of acts of violence, by the Spanish against the Cuban rebels. The sinking of the Maine provided an even better headline, and in their eagerness to build circulation, Pulitzer's New York World and Hearst's New York Journal generated an enormous war cry. Blaming Spain for the explosion (the source of which has never been made clear), Pulitzer and Hearst demanded that the United States strike back. On April 19, 1898, Congress recognized Cuba's independence, which amounted to a declaration of war against Spain. A short conflict, lasting less than six months, resulted in victory for the United States, giving them control over the Philippines (also a Spanish possession) and Puerto Rico, as well as granting Cuban independence.

Health woes continue

In the 1880s, Pulitzer's eyesight, never strong, began to fail, and by the 1890s he was virtually blind. Making matters worse, Pulitzer suffered from a battery of illnesses: asthma, a lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe; diabetes, a disorder affecting the body's ability to absorb sugar that can lead to many complications, such as blindness, unless treated; insomnia, an inability to fall asleep; and a mental condition called manic depression, which results in wide and sudden mood swings. Pulitzer became very sensitive to noise and felt compelled to live in soundproof rooms he built in his mansions in Bar Harbor, Maine, and New York City and aboard his yacht. After 1890, Pulitzer did not set foot in the newsroom of the New York World, communicating instead through secretaries and using a secret code to ensure his messages were not intercepted.

The impact of Pulitzer on the American media

In 1902, Pulitzer laid plans to contribute $2 million to Columbia University in New York to pay for a new school to train journalists. Pulitzer also insisted that money be set aside to award journalists for outstanding work—the Pulitzer Prizes that are so eagerly sought by journalists and are regarded as the profession's top award a century after Pulitzer's death.

There is little doubt that Pulitzer was one of the most influential men in America's newspaper industry. The ideas he pioneered in newspapers are still present in the twenty-first century and are often reflected in television shows specializing in crime or "reality." He transformed publications with circulations geared toward readers of a particular group of people into mass-media enterprises that assumed political influence of their own.

—James L. Outman

For More Information

Books

Barnhurst, Kevin G. The Form of News: A History. New York: Guilford Press, 2001.

Brian, Denis. Pulitzer: A Life. New York: J. Wiley, 2001.

Douglas, George H. The Golden Age of the Newspaper. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Juergens, George. Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966.

Swanberg, W. A. Pulitzer. New York: Scribner, 1967.

Periodicals

Davidson, David. "What Made the World Great?" American Heritage (October-November 1982): p. 62.

Neuharth, Allen H. "The State of News Standards Today Compared with Those in the 'Golden Age.'" Editor and Publisher (February 26, 1994):p. 54.

Web Sites

Topping, Seymour. "Joseph Pulitzer and the Pulitzer Prizes." The Pulitzer Prizes.http://www.pulitzer.org/History/history.html (accessed on March 23, 2004).

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