Influential newspaper editor and publisher Joseph Pulitzer was born on this day in 1847. Pulitzer immigrated to the United States from his native Hungary in the 1860s. He fumbled his way through unsuccessful stints as a calvalryman, mule hostler, waiter, and lawyer, before becoming a reporter for the Westliche Post.
Pulitzer flourished as a journalist, rising to be the Post’s managing editor. He also prospered. When he sold his shares in the Post, Pulitzer used the money to purchase papers in St. Louis, which he merged into the St. Louis Post-Dispath. He then went on to buy the New York World.
At the turn of the century, Pulitzer’s World was in fierce competition with William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. The circulation war is now most often cited for the “yellow journalism”—the sensationalistic, sometimes fabricated reporting—that the papers employed in their coverage of the Spanish-American War. But Pulitzer and Heart also created the model for ad-supported mass-circulation newspapers, which featured variegated types of content, from hard news to coverage of entertainment.
Today, Joseph Pulitzer is best known for establishing the Columbia School of Journalism, and for founding the Pulitzer Prizes, the annual awards given for achievements in journalism, photography, and the literary arts.