The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900

By Ted Curtis Smythe | Go to book overview

6

Western Journalism Invades New York, 1883-1885

Joseph Pulitzer and his family were on their way to Europe for a vacation early in 1883 when he stopped in New York to investigate the purchase of the World. Jay Gould, the railroad speculator, was the owner. He had used the newspaper to promote his financial interests, badly depleting its credibility during his successful effort to gain control of Western Union. But he no longer needed the newspaper and it was losing money. After long dickering, Pulitzer finally consented to buy the newspaper for $346,000, which evidently repaid Gould for all of his expenditures on it. Pulitzer leased the building and took over complete editorial and managerial control. He finally was in New York, 1 the first of the publishers who practiced Western Journalism to invade the city. He would not be the last.

It was a good time to enter New York newspaper publishing. One experienced reporter, looking over the field, claimed that publishers had not had a new idea in ten years, with the possible exception of Albert Pulitzer's Morning Journal, which had developed several new departments. 2 Joseph Pulitzer carried a bagful of new ideas, most of which would find a receptive audience in the city.

Joseph was the second Pulitzer to invade the city journalistically. His brother Albert had founded the one-cent Morning Journal just months earlier and successfully rcached the chambermaids and young workers by printing lots of entertainment and gossip, theater, and sports, and virtually no politics. 3 This formula was so successful the Journal's circulation quickly passed all other morning dailies, except for the Sun, Herald, and Tribune. Joseph must have thought that anything Albert could do, he could do better. But his decision to buy the World appears to have been so precipitous, he was unprepared to hire a staff. So he pirated away his brother's staff, exacerbating what little familial relations he had with his brother. Their relationship finally devolved into a permanent break. 4

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