A few words about the man behind the prize...
"More crime, immorality, and rascality is prevented by the fear of exposure in the newspapers than by all the laws, morals and statutes ever devised."
was born in 1847
and emigrated to America
at the age of seventeen. His ambition was to become a soldier of fortune
but the only army that would accept him was the Union army. After the Civil War
, Pulitzer, who spoke little English, migrated to a German
speaking community of St. Louis
. There he began reporting for a German language newspaper called Westliche Post. He also embraced the then liberal Republican
party and its platforms and was a reliable party worker. When he was about thirty, he did an about face and went over to the Democrat
's way of thinking and also gained command of the English language and honed his journalism
skills. In 1878
he managed to bring together two of St. Louis's struggling afternoon daily newspapers, the Post and the Dispatch.
St Louis, at the time, was a town with large aspirations. It was looking for commercial supremacy in the Midwest. It wound up losing this battle to Chicago and its already established rail network. Pulitzer reported on what went wrong in St. Louis, the corruption of the local government, the pretension of the upper class of the city, and the despair found in the tenements. The readers of the Post-Dispatch were also treated to further details of the goings on in city government as well as local gossip. Circulation of the paper increased from two thousand to over thirty thousand within five years.
Fresh off the success he found in St. Louis, Pulitzer wanted to be at the center of power. In 1883, he purchased the New York World and paid for some of the best talent of the time to write for the paper. In keeping with his liberal leanings, the paper ridiculed American plutocracy and reported on the struggles of the poor. He was soon marked as an "outsider" and was referred to as Jewish Pulitzer in a competing paper, the Journalist. He used illustrations and cartoon's to help broaden interest in the newspaper and as a result, circulation of the World had increased by over 100 fold since he bought the paper. He also went to a battle in print with William Randolph Hearst and inspired the epithet, the yellow press.
Pulitzer then decided that there was more to reporting than just pleasing the crowds. At the turn of the century, the World was one of the most respected papers in the world, both by readership and journalist alike. Pulitzer then decided to leave the cities and the scandals that he reported on. By this time, he was almost blind. He grew into somewhat of a recluse and spent most of his final years sailing the oceans of the world. He continued to edit his papers by telegram and read classical literature. In an effort to control journalism from beyond the grave, his will established the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University to further professionalism in the industry. It also endowed the coveted prizes that bear his name. He died at the age of 64 in 1911