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Joseph Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1964)

World Famous Hungarian-born journalist and Pulitzer Prize founder.

In 1898, at the height of the Spanish-American War, Americans and much of the rest of the world followed the gruesome stories of the war between Spain and the U.S. by reading the two leading newspapers of the times. One of these was William R. Hearstís New In 1898, at the height of the Spanish-American War, Americans and much of the rest of the world followed the gruesome stories of the war between Spain and the U.S. by reading the two leading newspapers of the times. One of these was William R. Hearstís New York Morning Journal and the other was a paper acquired in 1869 by an enterprising young Hungarian born American by the name of Joseph Pulitzer. Both papers competed for their readership by using sensationalist methods that were quite popular among the average reader, mostly known as yellow journalism. In the end both gentlemen, Hearst and Pulitzer, left their marks on the history of journalism and history itself. But while Hearst was born into great wealth, lived to enjoy great wealth, became the obvious subject of one of the greatest Hollywood films ever, Orson Wellís award-winning cinematographic epic "Citizen Kane", just as much for his controversial political positions as his incredible lifestyle, Pulitzer, born in Mako, Hungary, represents the best type of rags to riches story.

Pulitzer came to the U.S. at the young age of 17 in 1864 and used his horse-riding Hussar experience during his service as a cavalryman during the last year of the American Civil War. Fortunately for him he missed the first three years of bloody war and survived the last one. By 1867 he was granted U.S. citizenship, but before that he found himself having to work in terribly difficult menial jobs until he managed to scrounge up enough money to do the "go West young man" thing by the time he got his citizenship. Using his knowledge of the German language, which was the language Hungarians used in public places at the time of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, he was able to get a job as a reporter for the Westliche Post of Saint Louis, Missouri, a small conservative German language daily. By 1871 he was part owner and managing editor of the paper, but left it for greater opportunities two years later, which in part meant pursuing a successful political career he endeavored to build up as a Missouri State Representative in the State House. When the Liberal republican Party folded he became a member of the Democratic Party. During these years he managed to earn a Law degree and worked also as a correspondent for the New York Sun. By 1878 he was able to purchase a couple of local newspapers, and then made enough money on these to buy the New York World daily in 1883. His papers, backed by the influence of his money, dared to take positions that were extraordinary for the times. He used his papers to attack corruption in politics and business, expose con artists and support hard working laborers and their fledgling unions. His papers combined sensationalism with cautiously written, well-researched, extensive reports with other innovations he introduced, such as pages on womenís fashions, comics, light reading, sports and plenty of magazine quality illustrations. In fact, it was Pulitzer who first realized the worth of combining the old fashioned hard news page with the fashionable magazine style and contents. He helped raise the funds needed to erect the French gift statue, known as the Statue of Liberty, by publishing the names of all those willing to donate money. By 1887, suffering from fatigue, near blindness and other health complications which might have been signs of hereditary diabetes Pulitzer quit his direct involvement but continued to pull strings while traveling on long distance ship cruises. In his Will he instructed that one million dollars be given to Columbia University for the purpose of building a School of Journalism, and much of the rest of his wealth went to the Fund he established to finance his Pulitzer Prizes idea. Simply put, he wanted inspire young men and women to become daring and honest journalists willing to expose the truth and use inform the public of that which should most concern them, in effect excellence in quality journalism. Since his death the Pulitzer Awards have become to journalism, writing and poetry what the Oscars are for Hollywood or the Nobel Prize for the world.



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