Joseph Pulitzer

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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Joseph Pulitzer: Selected full-text books and articles

Pulitzer: A Life By Denis Brian John Wiley & Sons, 2001
Joseph Pulitzer, His Life & Letters By Don C. Seitz; Joseph Pulitzer Simon & Schuster, 1924
The Golden Age of the Newspaper By George H. Douglas Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Dangerous Crossroads: Pulitzer and Hearst"
The Gay Nineties in America: A Cultural Dictionary of the 1890s By Robert L. Gale Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "Pulitzer, Joseph (1847-1911)" begins on p. 287
Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers By Michael Schudson Basic Books, 1978
Librarian’s tip: "Journalism as Entertainment: Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World" begins on p. 91
Some Newspapers and Newspaper-Men By Oswald Garrison Villard Alfred A. Knopf, 1923
Librarian’s tip: Chap. III "The New York World, a Liberal Journal"
Mightier Than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History By Rodger Streitmatter Westview Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Joseph Pulitzer begins on p. 68
Historical Dictionary of the Spanish American War By Donald H. Dyal; Brian B. Carpenter; Mark A. Thomas Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Pulitzer, Joseph (1847-1911)" begins on p. 269
Public Opinion and the Spanish-American War: A Study in War Propaganda By Marcus M. Wilkerson Louisiana State University Press, 1932
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Joseph Pulitzer begins on p. 113
Sentinel under Siege: The Triumphs and Troubles of America's Free Press By Stanley E. Flink Westview Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Joseph Pulitzer begins on p. 172
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