JOSEPH PULITZER, (born April 10, 1847, Makó, Hungary) was an American newspaper editor and publisher who helped to establish the pattern of the modern newspaper. The journalism tunes from John will be newsworthy on Crosscurrents, Monday April 10 at 8 AM. Listen live at www.KRNN.org, 102.7fm, or 103.1fm.
Joseph Pulitzer was born to a wealthy family of Magyar-Jewish origin in Mako, Hungary on April 10, 1847. The elder Pulitzer (a grain merchant) retired in Budapest and Joseph grew up and was educated there in private schools and by tutors.
At Boston he jumped ship and, as the legend goes, swam to shore, determined to keep the enlistment bounty for himself rather than leave it to the agent. Pulitzer collected the bounty by enlisting for a year in the Lincoln Cavalry, which suited him since there were many Germans in the unit. He was fluent in German and French but spoke very little English. Later, he worked his way to St. Louis. While doing odd jobs there, such as muleteer, baggage handler, and waiter, he immersed himself in the city’s Mercantile Library, studying English and the law.
Four years later, in 1872, the young Pulitzer, who had built a reputation as a tireless enterprising journalist, was offered a controlling interest in the paper by the nearly bankrupt owners. At age 25, Pulitzer became a publisher and there followed a series of shrewd business deals from which he emerged in 1878 as the owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and a rising figure on the journalistic scene.
James Wyman Barrett, the last city editor of The New York World, records in his biography Joseph Pulitzer and His World how Pulitzer, in taking hold of the Post-Dispatch, “worked at his desk from early morning until midnight or later, interesting himself in every detail of the paper.” Appealing to the public to accept that his paper was their champion, Pulitzer splashed investigative articles and editorials assailing government corruption, wealthy tax-dodgers, and gamblers. This populist appeal was effective, circulation mounted, and the paper prospered. Pulitzer would have been pleased to know that in the conduct of the Pulitzer Prize system which he later established, more awards in journalism would go to exposure of corruption than to any other subject.
Putting aside his serious health concerns, Pulitzer immersed himself in its direction, bringing about what Barrett describes as a “one-man revolution” in the editorial policy, content, and format of The World. He employed some of the same techniques that had built up the circulation of the Post-Dispatch. He crusaded against public and private corruption, filled the news columns with a spate of sensationalized features, made the first extensive use of illustrations, and staged news stunts. In one of the most successful promotions, The World raised public subscriptions for the building of a pedestal at the entrance to the New York harbor so that the Statue of Liberty, which was stranded in France awaiting shipment, could be emplaced. During his later years he was blind and spent much of his time cruising about the world in his yacht, but to the end continued to direct his New York paper. He died on board his yacht in Charleston harbour, S.C., Oct. 29 1911.
Interested in improving the profession of journalism, he worked out a plan for establishing a school for training journalists. In 1903 he set aside $1,000,000 for establishing a school of journalism at Columbia University. His own idea as to the object of such a school is set forth in an article, “The College of Journalism,” contributed to the North American Review for May 1904. In Sept. 1912 the School of Journalism of Columbia was opened.
SORCE: 1922 Encyclopædia Britannica; Columbia University -Pulitzer.org