JOSEPH PULITZER Biography - People in the News and Media


Biography » people in the news and media » joseph pulitzer


Name: Joseph Pulitzer                                                                     
Born: 10 April 1847                                                                       
Died:29 October 1911                                                                     
Joseph Pulitzer (April 10, 1847 - October 29, 1911)                                       
was a Hungarian-American publisher best known for posthumously                           
establishing the Pulitzer Prizes and (along with William Randolph Hearst) for             
originating yellow journalism.                                                           
Pulitzer was born in Mako, Hungary as a son of a grain merchant of Magyar-Jewish         
origin and a German mother who was a devout Roman Catholic. He sought a                   
military career, but was turned down by the Austrian army due to poor health and         
eyesight. He instead emigrated to the United States in 1864 to serve in the               
American Civil War.                                                                       
After the war he settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where in 1868 he began working           
for a German language daily newspaper, the Westliche Post. He joined the                 
Republican Party and was elected to the Missouri State Assembly in 1869. However,         
after a failed attempt at electing Horace Greeley as president, the party                 
collapsed and Pulitzer switched to the Democrats. In 1872, Pulitzer purchased             
the Post for $3,000, and then sold his stake in the paper for a profit in 1873.           
Then, in 1879, he bought the St. Louis Dispatch, and the St. Louis Post and               
merged the two papers, which became the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which remains           
St. Louis' daily newspaper. It was at the Post-Dispatch that Pulitzer developed           
his role as a champion of the common man with exposes and a hard-hitting                 
populist approach.                                                                       
In 1882 Pulitzer, by then a wealthy man, purchased the New York World, a                 
newspaper that had been losing $40,000 a year, for $346,000 from Jay Gould.               
Pulitzer shifted its focus to human-interest stories, scandal, and                       
sensationalism. In 1885, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives,             
but resigned after a few months' service. In 1887, he recruited the famous               
investigative journalist Nellie Bly. In 1895 the World introduced the immensely           
popular The Yellow Kid comic by Richard F. Outcault, the first newspaper comic           
printed with color. Under Pulitzer's leadership circulation grew from 15,000 to           
600,000, making it the largest newspaper in the country.                                 
The editor of the rival New York Sun attacked Pulitzer in print, calling him in           
1890 "The Jew who abandoned his religion". This was intended to alienate                 
Pulitzer's Jewish readership. Pulitzer's already failing health deteriorated             
rapidly and he withdrew from the daily management of the newspaper, although he           
continued to actively manage the paper from his vacation retreat in Bar Harbor,           
Maine, and his New York mansion.                                                         
In 1895, William Randolph Hearst purchased the rival New York Journal from               
Pulitzer's own brother, Albert, which led to a circulation war. This competition         
with Hearst, particularly the coverage before and during the Spanish-American             
War, linked Pulitzer's name with yellow journalism.                                       
After the World exposed a fraudulent payment of $40 million by the United States         
to the French Panama Canal Company in 1909, Pulitzer was indicted for libeling           
Theodore Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan. The courts dismissed the indictments in a           
victory for freedom of the press.                                                         
In 1892, Pulitzer offered Columbia University's president, Seth Low, money to             
set up the world's first school of journalism. The university initially turned           
down the money, evidently unimpressed by Pulitzer's unscrupulous character. In           
1902, Columbia's new president Nicholas Murray Butler was more receptive to the           
plan for a school and prizes, but it would not be until after Pulitzer's death           
that this dream would be fulfilled. Pulitzer left the university $2 million in           
his will, which led to the creation in 1912 of the Columbia University Graduate           
School of Journalism, but by then at Pulitzer's urging the Missouri School of             
Journalism had been created at the University of Missouri. Columbia's Graduate           
School of Journalism remains one of the most prestigious in the world.                   
Joseph Pulitzer died aboard his yacht in the harbor of Charleston, South                 
Carolina in 1911. He is interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.