Happy Birthday, Joseph Pulitzer!
Today in 1847, the legendary Joseph P. was born. He’s also the namesake of Columbia J-school and we’re getting cupcakes on his behalf today, so here’s a nod, a smile, and a question in his direction.—Jihii
Q: How does the half-Jewish, half-Roman Catholic man from Hungary behind yellow journalism get to be remembered as the father of great American journalism and a great American journalism school?
A: His contributions outweigh his slip-ups, he was incredibly enterprising, and he got a lot of things done.
For starters, he wanted to be in army but was rejected on account of his sickliness till he met a bounty recruiter for the US Union Army, enlisted in the Lincoln Cavalry for a year, then worked his way to St. Louis as a muleteer, baggage handler, and waiter. His journalism career began with a job at a German language daily, and some significant hops, skips and jumps later (including ownership of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), he bought the The New York World, which was in dire financial states. The yellow journalism period came into full play during a four month long circulation battle with William Randolph Hearst’s Journal.
In the view of historians, Pulitzer’s lapse into “yellow journalism” was outweighed by his public service achievements. He waged courageous and often successful crusades against corrupt practices in government and business. He was responsible to a large extent for passage of antitrust legislation and regulation of the insurance industry.
Notable accomplishments include tremendous improvements in circulation of both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The New York World, innovations such as the first extensive use of illustrations in the paper, exposing tremendous corruption, crazy news stunts (such as the time he raised public subscriptions for the building of a pedestal at the entrance to the New York Harbor for the Statue of Liberty to be emplaced), and of course, Columbia J-school and the Pulitzer Prizes.
Read his full bio here.
Image: via Kenmore Stamp Company.