♪ ♪♪ Major support for 'Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People' provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, bringing you the stories that define us.
♪♪ Baker: An American newspaper -- it's a giant engine of history.
♪ It's an astonishing artistic achievement.
♪ I learned that the British Library, which had the very last pristine runs of Joseph Pulitzer's was getting rid of it.
They said, 'Look, it's going to be an auction.
So the only way you're going to get these papers safe, the way you want them to, is bid on them.
♪ It's so rare in anyone's life that you get an opportunity -- that something comes to you and you just happen to know that if you take a few steps, if you take a few risks, that you could save it.
♪ If you have the last copy, let's say, of a Shakespeare First Folio -- and there's only one left, what price do you come up with?
I had no idea.
And that's how I got to know about Joseph Pulitzer, who is probably the most thrilling and important and original and creative mind in American media that has ever been.
He's the person who thought up so much of what we think of now as news and how news is conveyed.
Senator Baker: What did the President know and when did he know it?
Cooper: Also, two media centers built -- [ Explosion in background ] Whoa!
Woodruff: Tonight, Iraq's stability at stake.
Collard: You could hear some clashes, some gunfire.
Gonzalez: Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats... Maddow: ...what it means to be an investigative reporter, and why it's worth it.
Mark Hosenball's national security reporting after 9/11... ♪ ♪ ♪ Driver: Joseph Pulitzer was a relentless journalist known for making enemies.
A lifetime insomniac, he rarely stopped editing, learning, criticizing, and only occasionally, praising.
His restless temperament was well-suited to the ceaseless pace of publishing a daily newspaper.
♪ In his final years, when he was blind, Pulitzer waged one last battle.
He accused President Theodore Roosevelt of lying to the American people.
♪ ♪ On December 15, 1908, the called the Panama Canal, Roosevelt's proudest achievement, an act of colonial aggression.
The paper insisted that the government account for a missing $40 million, claiming that the money was lining rich men's pockets.
Man: '...should be prosecuted for libel...' Driver: Incensed, Roosevelt sent a fiery letter to Congress accusing Pulitzer of libel and threatening to put him in prison.
Roosevelt stated... Roosevelt: It is a high national duty to bring to justice this vilifier of the American people.
Driver: Pulitzer fought the accusations as an attack on the press, even on democracy itself.
♪ How did Joseph Pulitzer, once a penniless Jewish immigrant from Hungary, come to defy a popular president and lead the fight for a free press until his death in 1911?
♪ ♪ ♪ Joseph Pulitzer was born in Hungary in 1847, on the eve of revolutions that spread across Europe in 1848.
♪ Joseph's uncles joined reformers who fought for a more representative government, better working conditions, and an uncensored press.
The revolutions were suppressed, and tens of thousands of people were killed.
Thousands more were forced into exile, many to the United States.
The revolutions' fervor ignited Joseph's lifelong passion for democratic ideals.
♪ ♪ McGrath Morris: Pulitzer grew up in a part of Hungary -- a town called Mako, which is at the border of Romania.
And it's a very isolated spot.
All of the farming towns at that point were a day's ride apart.
And being a Jew in Hungary in the 19th century, he was part of an isolated group.
Driver: Joseph's life was stalked by death.
Seven of his eight siblings died.
His father passed away when Joseph was only 11, leaving the family in debt.
Determined to forge a new life, Joseph left his mother and only surviving sibling, Albert, in 1864.
♪ The ambitious, multilingual 17-year-old dreamed of becoming a soldier, and propelled himself into the midst of America's defining conflict.
♪ ♪ McGrath Morris: Pulitzer came to the United States by way of our Civil War.
Tucher: He finds recruiters for the Union Army, who are scouring Europe, trying to recruit people to come to the U.S.
Driver: Pulitzer, like other immigrant recruits, took the place of wealthy draft-dodging Americans.
He joined a German-speaking unit, the Lincoln Calvary.
He later summed up his army service -- Pulitzer: 'I wanted to ride the horse.
I did not want to work.'
Daly: A scrawny, weak-eyed, not the first person you would put in uniform -- but he was good enough for this desperate situation.
The Civil War marks a turning point in American journalism, because it is the Great Struggle.
It is the greatest contest of the 19th century.
It is a struggle over what it means to be an American.
Eventually, it becomes a struggle over what it means to be a human being.
♪ Driver: Pulitzer's first exposure to the American press was behind the front lines.
The newspapers' swift, accurate reporting of battles and casualties was prized by soldiers and families alike.
♪ The Civil War over, Pulitzer joined thousands of unemployed veterans wandering the country.
Flat broke, he headed west.
To cross the Mississippi River, he shoved coal on a barge -- his first paid job.
His second demanded that he bury the bodies of cholera victims.
Tucher: He finds his way into St. Louis, where this is a very large German-speaking population.
Driver: Pulitzer attended ornery mules and quipped -- Pulitzer: 'The man who has not cared for 16 mules doesn't know what work and troubles are.'
Driver: He clerked in an immigration office, advising immigrants even greener than himself.
An avid reader and accomplished chess player, he taught himself English by reading his favorite writer, Charles Dickens.
Daly: He was in his late teens, early 20s.
He happened to be in the right place at the right time, in the sense that St. Louis was a growing city.
It was a place where people were founding new newspapers.
There was money for investment, and it was just the ideal place for someone with more energy and determination than cash to get a start in life.
Driver: Joseph was an unstoppable workaholic, mocked or touted as a man who walked into a revolving door behind you, yet somehow emerged in front of you.
A contemporary wrote, 'He was so industrious that it became a positive annoyance to others who felt less inclined to work.'
♪ At the Mercantile Library, a gathering place for politically engaged immigrants, he met newspaper publisher Carl Schurz.
Schurz was a leader of the German Revolution in 1848, a Civil War general, and a soon-to-be U.S. senator.
♪ When Joseph astutely criticized a move in a chess game, Schurz engaged Pulitzer in conversation, and a job offer followed.
McGrath Morris: So he became part of this group of intellectuals who spoke German, who welcomed him because there were no class distinctions.
And these folks were all also motivated by a deep performance drive.
McGrath Morris: Joseph Pulitzer got his first job in journalism working for the the best game in town among German newspapers if you were interested in politics.
Politics and journalism were separated by a very thin membrane.
Editors became politicians, politicians became editors, and they went back and forth.
Driver: Joseph taught himself law and proved to be a natural reporter, with a gift for gab and a feel for investigative journalism.
Passionate about politics, he wrote exposés that uncovered St. Louis corruption.
McGrath Morris: He's at this ward meeting in which they're choosing a candidate to run for the state legislature.
While he's out of the room, they all think it's a great joke -- they nominate Joseph Pulitzer.
Driver: Pulitzer accepted the nomination, but he did not treat it as a joke.
St. Louis politicians assumed that the 22-year-old with a thick Hungarian accent would lose.
He did not.
McGrath Morris: This is an intoxicating moment, and experience with small-'d' democracy.
'I've just arrived to the United States,' Pulitzer must be thinking on the train ride to Jefferson City, 'and I'm now being asked to make laws in the United States.'
It was almost a religious belief in democracy that he's gaining in Jefferson City.
♪ Driver: Pulitzer introduced a bill to abolish the county's sweetheart deals, and simultaneously promoted his legislation in the newspaper.
McGrath Morris: A lobbyist named Augustine was digging a well for the state insane asylum.
And by the time he hit water, it had become the second-deepest well on the globe.
Driver: Pulitzer dubbed the excavation the 'Well of Fools,' because Augustine was being paid by the foot.
In danger of losing future lucrative contracts, Augustine confronted Pulitzer at his hotel, calling him a damn liar and a pup.
Pulitzer drew his pistol and fired a shot, grazing Augustine's calf.
McGrath Morris: And you would think that would be the end of a political career.
No, it was not.
He was then appointed to be a police commissioner in St. Louis.
Driver: He had a Midas-like touch.
After buying a share in the he sold it for a staggering $30,000 -- six times his purchase price.
At a bankruptcy auction, he paid $2,500 for the failing immediately merging it with the struggling And a mere three years later, the became the city's best-selling paper.
The 'Arrested for Murder.
This morning Deputy Sheriff McKenzie arrested Carl Green.'
'Yesterday afternoon during a picnic held at Miller's Grove, a number of young ladies and gentlemen were dangerously poisoned by drinking lemonade.'
'A Funeral Sensation.
A Frail Wife Denied the Privilege of Seeing Her Dead Husband.
Reverend McCready motioned her to leave.'
McCready: 'Go away. You have no right to see him.
Widow: 'Oh my God, I must see my husband.'
Driver: 'While the wildest commotion prevailed in the church, the lid was fastened in its place.'
Tucher: Joseph Pulitzer has an idea about newspapers: that they ought to be short and smart and snappy, that they ought to have style, that they ought to be really readable.
He's writing for people who -- he remembers what it was like not to know English, or not to know English well.
Driver: Pulitzer proclaimed the independent of party politics and headlined corruption, regardless of its source.
♪ McGrath Morris: St. Louis citizens were required to file a tax report every year.
And on it, they were supposed to list things like how much money they had in their bank, how many carriages they had in their carriage houses.
And they often listed '0' for dollars.
Driver: Pulitzer published the names of tax dodgers -- an attack on leading citizens readers had never seen in print before.
Pulitzer: 'Tax returns are not private secrets.
If the publication of them hurts anyone, it is not our fault.'
Driver: Circulation and advertising revenue soared.
McGrath Morris: Pulitzer creates two things at that moment.
He creates economic independence for his newspaper and political power.
Driver: Only 29, Pulitzer realized that to do its job, a newspaper had to make enemies.
♪ He sought an appropriate wife.
Joseph courted Kate Davis while reporting in Washington, D.C.
She was attractive, bright, and had a taste for life's pleasures.
She was beautiful, according to St. Louis '...of the clear gypsy type, with a rich color and great melting eyes.'
♪ Pulitzer: 'I cannot help saying that I am too cold and selfish.
Still, I am not without honor, and that alone would compel me to strive to become worthy of your faith and love.
I'm impatient to start a new life, one of which home must be the foundation, affection, ambition, and occupation the cornerstones, and you, my dear, inseparable companion.
♪ There -- now you have my first love letter.'
♪ McGrath Morris: Kate Davis -- a member of a storied family because her distant cousin was Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy.
One of the things that Davis offered for Pulitzer, having been raised a Jew in Hungary and having come to the United States as a Jew, is entry into the Episcopal Church.
He gained the last element he needed to become part of the American elite.
♪ Driver: His success in business bankrolled the couples' six-week honeymoon in Europe, the grand tour.
Kate would have two girls and a boy in St. Louis.
♪ Joseph stuck to a routine of spending day and night at the office, and drove his staff to do the same.
Nasaw: Pulitzer is one of these extraordinary immigrants who comes to the United States, becomes more American than the native-born, has an extraordinary ambition, a drive, and, I think, an anger.
Tucher: He's sharp-tempered, he doesn't suffer fools, and he doesn't like criticism.
And there are several episodes of violence and near-violence.
He decides it's time to leave St. Louis when his managing editor shoots somebody who's been critical of the paper and the politics, and this man dies.
Driver: 'At 5:15 P.M., Slayback walked...into the office.
He had called the paper a blackmailing sheet, and had bitterly attacked all persons connected with it.'
♪ Tucher: So it is seen as high time to go to New York, which is the real arena for a man of vision and talent.
♪ Driver: While Pulitzer kept ownership of the profitable underscored his soaring ambition to reach a national audience.
Pulitzer: 'I sense a grand opportunity in New York.
All the city needs to set its capacious glands awash is a daily dose of tingling sensations as plentiful as mushrooms.'
Driver: Pulitzer paid the then-exorbitant sum of $400,000 for this long-shot opportunity.
♪ Nasaw: New York is the center of America.
New York has always been loved and hated, but can't be ignored.
And it certainly could not be ignored in the 1880s.
New York is a polyglot maelstrom of humanity.
♪ Tucher: There were lots and lots of newspapers.
There were -- oh, perhaps as many as a dozen daily newspapers.
There were morning papers and afternoon papers.
There were papers in foreign languages.
There were papers for various special interests like reform causes or religion.
Driver: Pulitzer's younger brother, Albert, had arrived in New York a few years before Joseph and had his own meteoric rise through the newspaper world.
Albert published an eye-catching daily, disparaged as 'The Chambermaid's Delight.'
♪ Now, Joseph urged Albert to merge their papers, seeing the When Albert refused, Joseph lured away three of his prized newsmen.
Daly: He buys a failing newspaper.
Pulitzer would take it to all-new levels in terms of the size of his readership, in terms of the level of excitement and energy and action in the pages itself, and in terms of the visual presentation of news.
When he was finished, journalism was unrecognizable from the way it had existed before.
[ Sneeze ] ♪ ♪ [ Birds cawing ] ♪ Pulitzer: 'There is room in this great and growing city for a journal that is not only cheap but bright, not only bright but large, not only large but truly democratic -- dedicated to the cause of the people, that will expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses, that will serve and battle for the people with determined sincerity.'
Diner: Pulitzer helped convince Americans that they had to become a nation of newspaper-readers -- that reading that paper was like having your first cup of coffee, that the day was not complete without the paper.
The newspaper became a habit.
Baker: It was the key to the city.
If you have come from afar, if you don't speak this language, buy this newspaper.
This is going to be a way in.
Daly: Pulitzer's timing was also very fortunate, in that he makes his debut in New York City right around the time that the city has become big enough so that most people need to commute to work.
So you have large numbers of people who have a chunk of time each day when there's nothing obvious that they should be doing.
Well, reading a newspaper is just about the perfect diversion while you are commuting.
Everyone subscribed to multiple newspapers or bought multiple papers on the street: morning editions, evening editions, extras, the newspaper you liked, and the newspaper you hated but you wanted to be conversant with.
It was world of print, and the master of that world was Joseph Pulitzer.
Driver: His commands to his writers papered the newsroom's walls.
♪ ♪ McGrath Morris: One of the bits of magic that Joseph Pulitzer had was this understanding that the urban landscape, the growing American cities, represented a source of entertainment.
And he was a man who was weaned on Charles Dickens.
And Charles Dickens, of course, was writing novels based on urban tragedies, urban poverty, urban sadness, romance of urban life.
So Joseph Pulitzer admonished his reporters to go out and dig up stories -- not news, stories of life in New York.
Czitrom: The vast majority of New Yorkers in the 1880s and '90s were working-poor people.
It was a struggle to survive.
If you're a New Yorker in the 1880s or 1890s, there's no Social Security.
There's no Medicare.
There's no unemployment insurance, no workman's comp, no minimum wage -- none of that social safety net that we have come to take for granted.
All of a sudden, here comes Pulitzer saying that news is really about what happens to ordinary people.
News is about what's distinctive in city life.
News is about reading about people just like you.
♪ Pulitzer: 'Always fight for progress and reform.
Never tolerate injustice or corruption.
Always oppose privileged classes and public plunder.
Never lack sympathy for the poor.
Never be afraid to attack wrong.
Always be drastically independent.'
Tucher: Pulitzer sees them not just as a vast market, potentially profitable.
He also sees them as people who need a newspaper -- who need a newspaper that's going to stand up for their interests.
So he's always got this mix of understanding the market and understanding how to make a good profit.
But also, he's devoted to the interests of people who don't have champions.
♪ Tomes: He was accused of being a sensationalist.
His response was, 'I am reporting on what really happens in the world.
There're crimes in the world.
There're divorces in the world.
There's scandals in the world.
Why shouldn't that be part of what a newspaper reports?'
But of course, his genius was he didn't just wait for these things to happen.
He had a notion of the news, not just that you report it, but you also make it.
♪ Driver: Pulitzer first made news when the majestic Brooklyn Bridge opened in May 1883, only ten days after he purchased In their tone-deaf quest for revenue, the city fathers levied a one-penny pedestrian toll.
♪ splashed a four-column wood-cut illustration of the great suspension bridge across its front page, and demanded -- Pulitzer: 'Let the bridge be free.
A penny is a workman's lunch.
The working classes of the city do not enjoy many privileges.
Let them at least have free schools, free air, free daylight, and a free bridge.'
Driver: Pulitzer's challenge could not have been more timely.
Working people quickly understood that a fearless new champion had come to town.
♪ Tucher: One of the things that distinguished Pulitzer's paper is that he used it in the service of campaigns and crusades.
♪ One of the most famous of his crusades was, France gave to the United States the Statue of Liberty -- a great statue that was going to stand in the harbor and welcome the world to New York.
The problem was, France didn't give a pedestal for the statue.
The statue came, and what are we going to do with it?
It's not going to stand.
Pulitzer feels very strongly that the government ought to fund the pedestal.
He insists Congress should fund the pedestal, and Congress is not interested in this.
So Pulitzer invites readers of his newspaper to donate -- schoolchildren in their classes, to gather up pennies and nickels and dimes, to get enough money to build the pedestal so that the Lady Liberty can stand in the harbor.
Pulitzer: 'Unless the statue goes to the bottom of the ocean, it is safe to predict that it will eventually stand upon an American pedestal, and stand beautiful too, for a very long time with more sentiment than we can now dream of.
♪ McGrath Morris: The idea that this wealthy member of New York City would ask the poorest members of the city to bring in their dimes and nickels to the front desk of that these folks had in Joseph Pulitzer.
Girl: 'I'm a little girl, 10 years of age.
I hope to see Miss Liberty sometime, and want to contribute to the pedestal.
Girl 2: 'The little boys and girls in my Sunday school class wish to contribute towards the Bartholdi Fund.'
Girl: 'I've enclosed $2, hoping the pedestal will be finished soon.'
McGrath Morris: And in return for just a penny, their name would appear in the paper.
Cleverly, the donors didn't appear for several days later, so you might have to buy several editions of 'The World' before you would see your name.
So the paper that carried news of the Astors and all these wealthy families in New York would also carry O'Shaughnessy's name in this list of donors.
Driver: The records show that 120,000 people donated to the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund.
Tucher: And he does this in part because it's great copy.
And everyone knows that Pulitzer is doing this -- and the schoolchildren know, and they're gonna grow up and read the newspaper, too.
This is not dumb.
But it's also a way for him to reflect back on his own immigrant roots.
It's in the harbor.
It's welcoming people coming to the United States.
It's a way for him to make a statement about his own origins, and the origins of many of his readers.
♪ ♪ Driver: In 1887, a little-known reporter with the pen name Nellie Bly approached the She was promised a job if she got a scoop.
Bly feigned insanity before the Bellevue Hospital board and was taken to the notorious insane asylum for women on Blackwell's Island.
Nellie was incarcerated for ten days before Pulitzer's lawyer secured her release.
Bly wrote -- Bly: 'The insane asylum is a human rat trap.
It is easier to get in, but once there, it is impossible to leave.
From the moment I entered the insane ward on the island, I made no attempt to keep up the assumed role of insanity.
I talked and acted just as I do in ordinary life.
It's strange to say the more sanely I talked and acted, the crazier I was thought to be.'
Driver: Because of her exposé of the horrors within, the city appropriated $850,000 in an attempt to reform the institution.
They take out after the grafters, the scoundrels, those who make money off selling spoiled milk -- perfuming it, putting chalk into it to make it look white, and killing children as a result.
They give voice to the voiceless.
Driver: Pulitzer's drive to investigate wrongdoing became his paper's rallying cry.
Pulitzer: 'There is only one way to get a democracy on its feet, and that is by keeping the public informed.
There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.
Get these things out in the open.
Describe them. Attack them.
Ridicule them in the press.
And sooner or later, public opinion will sweep them away.'
Nasaw: How the other half lives is the quintessential New York story, and is becoming the quintessential American story.
And Pulitzer is going to cover it.
Tucher: The Lower East Side in the late 19th century, early 20th century becomes a real clustering place for many of these immigrants.
Many of them are taken advantage of.
The housing is terrible.
The jobs are terrible.
There is virtually no supervision or regulation of the workplace or the workforce.
McGrath Morris: They had windows into air shafts.
They could not get outside air.
And 'night soil' -- the business you did at night -- the buckets would be dropped down these air shafts.
So it smelled, it was horrible.
And on a hot night, people would go to the roofs of the tenements to get their night's sleep.
♪ Jacob Riis, the famous journalist who chronicled poverty in the Lower East Side, described what occurred as a 'human rain,' in that children would roll over in their sleep and fall to their death in the middle of the night.
♪ Driver: The reporting prompted sharp critiques.
The editor of ♪ ♪ Driver: The true horror was that Pulitzer's paper did not have to up the ante.
The city suffered from the world's highest population density.
The streets were filthy.
2.5 million pounds of horse manure had to be removed every day.
Nasaw: The Gilded Age is an age where government does less at a time when it should do more.
The city is rife with exploitation, with fraud.
Czitrom: The Gilded Age has come to mean two things, it seems to me.
One is the creation of enormous fortunes -- vast amounts of wealth that were, in effect, unprecedented in American or perhaps human history -- all this coming about with the emergence of industrial capitalism and the growth of national markets in the United States.
And Twain argued that so much of what was supposed to be great about America was really not so great.
The sort of underside of how these fortunes are made, the underside of unethical business practices, the underside of the robber baron's world -- this is part of what we mean by the Gilded Age: the sense that underneath New York, there is a volcano of poor, angry people.
♪ Gitter: Earlier, the idea was that poverty and disability and so on were the will of God.
And so, there's this new idea that people can be made better, that the world can be made better, that corruption of the bad institutions and the successes of the progressive institutions should be reported -- that they were of interest to the public.
And that people could change -- that you could have a change of heart -- that's a very Victorian idea.
Nasaw: They start the campaign that ends in more regulation, more sewers, more tenement laws, more factory laws.
McGrath Morris: And this rewarded Pulitzer with this amazing loyalty of the lower classes of New York, who were willing to give him two pennies every day for the paper, but were also willing to give Pulitzer political power because whatever he wrote on the editorial page, they were going to follow.
[ 'Hail to the Chief' playing ] Driver: Pulitzer the immigrant could never be president, but he campaigned vigorously for presidents.
He ran for and handily won a seat in Congress, but quit just a few months later.
Pulitzer returned to New York, convinced that his true gift was the newspaper business, and his true constituency, his readers.
He expanded his coverage to appeal to an ever-wider audience of rich and poor.
♪ Daly: In the pages of his newspaper, he made it a practical form of education -- a kind of a home study that immigrants could look to for advice about how to better their English, about how to join American society, about how to understand some of these strange folkways in this new country.
McGrath Morris: American economic life was a foreign concept.
American politics -- democracy -- was an unheard-of concept for a lot of these folks.
And the paper was providing a gateway to all of that.
So when the rose and became an important paper, for a few pennies on a Sunday, you could buy a newspaper as thick as telephone book that had dress patterns.
Baker: Here are the dresses that you, as a purchaser for a nickel, of this newspaper, can make.
And they show you kind of nice lace patterns and things.
Then they actually give you the dress pattern.
McGrath Morris: Kids today talk about downloading music.
The included sheet music of the most popular song from that day, so you can go back and play the song.
Baker: And then, there was the Rolly Pollys which you can cut out and then insert where they tell you to insert on the stage.
And then, you get a kind of three-dimensional thing.
The idea for Pulitzer was, here's this two-dimensional medium of paper and ink.
How can we make it leap into a third dimension?
How can we make it real?
Tucher: He's got short stories and snappy stories with accessible language about murders and about society and about sensation and about sin.
But he's got a lot of stories about how you be in America.
People who are immigrants here want to know, how do we assimilate?
So he gives them stories about etiquette, about fashion, about shopping, about how to consume -- how to be a good American consumer.
Diner: By gosh, is everybody else is going to be wearing a particular new style this year and a particular fabric and a particular color, a particular kind of hat, why shouldn't they have it?
And the newspapers, which are coming increasingly to depend on advertising, expose young working women with what those styles are.
[ Dog barking, bell dinging, cat snarling ] Daly: Pulitzer first hired a cartoonist named Outcault, who did a very funny, very striking single-panel cartoon -- a big cartoon, that showed life in what the cartoonist referred to as 'Hogan's Alley.'
And the tenement would be crowded with lots of things going on, and people leaning out their windows and sitting on stoops and hanging off the fire escapes.
And invariably, there would be this very odd figure in the cartoon commenting on the whole scene.
And it was a little boy who looked like an idiot -- there's really no getting around it.
And he became known as the Yellow Kid.
And readers of Pulitzer's paper would say, 'Hey, have you seen the Yellow Kid today?
Did you see what the Yellow Kid said today?'
And the Yellow Kid became a real point of pride for Pulitzer's ♪ McGrath Morris: What he did was understand how the eye moved around the page, understand that we were selective, understand that we are capricious and fussy about things, that we want to be pulled in, that we want an ongoing story.
He just sort of had this explosion of brilliant originality -- which was amazing!
It was everything on cable.
It was everything on the radio.
There was nothing else that was a single conduit through which all sorts of information flowed at the same time.
And it was happening every single day in New York City.
It was pumping out of a basement, kind of an incredible miracle.
♪ ♪ Driver: He was a difficult man in a society he insisted he was an outsider.
He was unusual-looking -- to some -- with striking deep-blue eyes and a prominent nose.
His ambition and his insistence on precision irritated all those around him -- family members and friends, colleagues, and his staff.
Baker: He would sometimes be mocked in cartoons with a big beaked nose, with a very unattractive appearance.
He was sometimes referred to as 'Jew-seph Pulitzer' or 'Joseph Jew-litzer.'
Daly: This was an era when the publishers and the top editors, especially of the big papers, were very prominent figures.
They were often depicted in each other's pages.
They were the subject of commentary.
They were often also candidates for office.
They were not shy people.
Most of us, I daresay, could not spot the publisher of our favorite newspaper walking down the street.
But everyone could've spotted Joseph Pulitzer.
They'd seen cartoons of him.
They's seen photos.
He had those distinctive pince-nez glasses.
Redden: Pulitzer, of course, was a colossal figure in the late 19th and early 20th century.
He was a sort of Rupert Murdoch of his day, but quite different.
If Rupert Murdoch would be described as conservative, Pulitzer was generally fairly liberal.
He believed in unions -- except when it may have applied to his own companies.
♪ ♪ In fact, he was living -- certainly towards the end of his life -- amongst the very, very rich.
Tucher: It's very possible in New York to live your life and never see the poor, if you are a rich person.
The poor cluster in different neighborhoods.
If you lived on Fifth Avenue and you went out in your carriage and you took your carriage to your office, you could pretty much ignore that whole world.
Pulitzer's newspaper reminded you that that world was out there.
McGrath Morris: New York society was very hostile to his coverage of the lower class, his sensationalistic approach.
In fact, they thought it was unhealthy.
There were clubs in New York, libraries in New York, that would not take the because it could be a bad influence on them.
A murder would occur, and the body would be cut up and put into barrels.
Well, the would deliver you the news with illustrations, with an arrow pointing to the fact that the head was here and the arms were there.
♪ Driver: It wasn't sensationalism alone that drove the upper classes to scorn the paper.
What truly offended them was the sense that by covering New York's large disenfranchised groups, Pulitzer empowered them.
[ Indistinct chatter ] Baker: People like a crowd.
People are curious when a crowd assembles.
And in a way, the newspaper is like a crowd.
The bigger the news, the more shocking those headlines, the better for business.
Czitrom: So, when Pulitzer takes over the it's got a circulation of about 15,000 readers every day.
Within two years, he has increased that 150,000 -- tenfold increase.
And within a couple years after that, the has got 400,000 readers every day, and it's the most successful newspaper in America -- perhaps, in the world.
Pulitzer understood that the newspaper was crucial for the new world of mass production and mass distribution.
You have got more and more people in the Gilded Age, of course, buying their clothing in stores.
People who used to make their own soap now buy the soap.
Women who used to be in charge of domestic production in the home, not doing that as much anymore.
So, where are they buying this stuff?
Increasingly in big cities, they're buying these things in department stores.
And department stores become the single most important advertiser in Gilded Age newspapers.
♪ Tomes: He's the first newspaper publisher to say to advertisers, 'You have to pay me on the basis of my circulation.'
Up until that point, everybody was charged the same rate whether you had 5,000 copies sold or 10,000.
He said, 'No, no, no.
I'm boosting circulation.
That means, Mr. Macy, if you want to put an ad in the Nasaw: The department store and the newspaper grow together.
Politics and the newspaper grow together.
The entertainment world and the newspaper grow together.
Sports and the newspaper grow together.
The stock market -- and Wall Street -- and the newspaper grow together, because the newspaper accommodates all of these industries.
Driver: Pulitzer's two papers were now raking in millions of dollars a year.
And Pulitzer was spending money at the same breakneck speed.
He purchased a $150,000 Tiffany pearl necklace for his wife, and maintained three sumptuous residences.
Yet he could still rail about capital's corrupting influence.
♪ Tucher: One of the ways that the makes its statement is through its building.
Pulitzer insists on building a great, tall, wonderful house for his newspaper -- for a brief time, the tallest building anywhere.
Baker: And this is a comic version of the idea of building the 'The American Skyscraper is a Modern Tower of Babel.'
But they're all building this newspaper, which is a part of the ethnic mix of New York City.
Redden: But it had to be the biggest building in New York.
It's grander -- grander than any newspaper building ever built.
It had to have this extraordinary dome at the top of it covered with gold, that could be seen 40 miles away out in the ocean.
Driver: Although Pulitzer did not attend the dedication, his 4-year-old son, Joe, laid the cornerstone, and a time capsule was buried.
Pulitzer cabled from Wiesbaden, Germany -- Pulitzer: 'God grant that this structure be the enduring home of a newspaper forever unsatisfied with merely printing news, forever fighting every form of wrong, forever independent, forever advancing in enlightenment and progress.'
Driver: Pulitzer knew great advertising when he saw it.
The first two landmarks that immigrants spied as they approached New York Harbor bore the publisher's imprint.
♪ [ Waves lapping, gulls crying ] ♪ ♪ McGrath Morris: One of the great ironies in Joseph Pulitzer's life is that he probably did more than any other person in his time period to make American journalism more visual -- more interesting to look at.
But at a time when the paper was at its most inventive, Joseph Pulitzer himself was slowly going blind.
Tucher: Pulitzer's health is terrible.
He probably had some kind of depression.
But his physical health contributed to that, because very shortly after he arrived in New York, he was subject to terrible headaches, to all sorts of malaise.
McGrath Morris: And the thing that really triggered it was going blind.
Albert: In 1890, quite suddenly, he was standing at the rail of a ship and he remarked that it had gotten dark.
[ Shutter clicks ] ♪ If the retina is detached, then it becomes folded to some extent.
Things look distorted, similar to the mirrors in an amusement park.
It's a medical emergency.
And if Pulitzer developed those symptoms today, he would have those holes sealed with cautery, with laser, and the retina reattached.
Tucher: When you lose your sight, you can't see your hands anymore.
You can't see your own body, so it's profoundly disorienting -- the sense of a self that you can't see anymore.
You can't see your face in the mirror.
You can't read other people's expressions.
Your relationships with other people are really disrupted.
So for somebody like Joseph Pulitzer -- who's powerful, alpha male -- to suddenly go from being an object of respect, maybe fear, to being an object of pity who has to be led around, is tremendous loss of status.
♪ Tucher: He becomes hypersensitive to sound.
It's very difficult for him to be in public open areas, because the sound is -- is difficult for him to bear.
He finds himself requiring his office is soundproofed -- is padded.
He doesn't like being subjected to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, so he becomes more and more of a recluse.
He lives on his yacht.
He lives in his carefully sequestered house.
Redden: The accommodations that were made for Joseph Pulitzer must've absolutely infuriated everybody around him, but nevertheless, had to happen.
Here in this house, clearly, the bedroom would have had to have been completely soundproof.
But it wasn't good enough for him.
He demanded that another bedroom be built for him, and so at the back of the house, a new kind of bedroom wing was created.
The passageway leading to the bedroom, in fact, was on ball bearings to prevent vibrations from getting through.
Nevertheless, and having said it's soundproof, of course, Joseph Pulitzer goes to spend the night there and can't sleep because he can still hear something somewhere.
So they go back to square one.
They look at the bedroom again, and they decide that some noises are coming down the chimney flue.
♪ ♪ Tomes: It's ironic that a man whose life was made so miserable by sounds he couldn't control -- unpredictable sounds -- loved music, had a giant organ in his home, went to concerts.
[ Playing instruments ] It's really the issue of control.
♪ McGrath Morris: In Maine, he built a tower of silence out of solid stone.
When he built his own yacht, he had the engines put in one particular place, had thicker doors installed.
When he took a nap, everyone had to stay wherever they were.
Nothing could be moved.
Before he had a yacht, when he travelled on White Star Line, they had special doors that they would mount on his cabin.
He would take the two cabins next door to keep them empty.
They put down a mat on the deck above so anyone walking couldn't be heard, and the piano music had to end by a certain time.
♪ Pulitzer would get on a ship or his own yacht, go to Europe, turn around, and come right back.
He was fleeing his own shadows.
He was seeking a geographical solution to a psychological problem that, of course, went with him wherever he went.
Tomes: Part of the context for understanding Joseph's mental anguish, I think, is the disease environment of that time period.
Look at how many people in his family died from tuberculosis, from whatever ailments carried off all his brothers and sisters except for Albert.
Then he has his own family -- baby Ethel from pneumonia.
And then his 17-year-old daughter, Lucille.
McGrath Morris: She died of typhoid in Maine, at their estate.
♪ Lucille was his beloved daughter.
Pulitzer went into depression.
♪ Gitter: One of the pleasures of parenthood is watching your children grow, and their faces change and their capacities develop -- all of those things.
When you can't see your children anymore and you can't see them change, they're frozen in time.
♪ Driver: Pulitzer was perpetually disappointed with his sons.
He feared that his children would squander their inheritance and dishonor his legacy.
♪ Pulitzer: 'The is, to me, far more than a property.
I regard it as a public institution, capable of influencing the nation's thought.
Never forget the dangers that attend inheritors of large fortunes, elevating luxury and withdrawal from vigorous, serious, useful work.
♪ Unfortunately, to date, I remain skeptical about your talents of commitment.'
♪ Driver: Life for his wife was hardly easier than for the children.
Mrs. Pulitzer: 'He said that I did not understand the proper relations between husband and wife -- that all the little things that go to make a man comfortable, I failed in.
There is not a servant in the house who had worked harder than I had.
I have made a slave of myself.'
♪ Driver: Pulitzer's struggle to overcome his ailments and pursue his ambitions weighed on family and staff alike.
One of Pulitzer's secretaries observed of John Singer Sargent's portrait -- Man: 'Hide with a sheet of paper one half the face, and you have a benevolent middle-aged gentleman.
Observe now the other half, and you have the malevolent, sinister, and cruel expression of a Mephisto.'
♪ Tucher: Pulitzer is very different from someone like William Randolph Hearst, who has been shaking up the newspaper world in California, in San Francisco -- comes to New York specifically to challenge Pulitzer.
He, in fact, buys the newspaper that had previously been run by Joseph Pulitzer's brother, Albert.
And he makes it more sensational and more flashy.
Daly: Hearst could not have come from a more different background than Joseph Pulitzer.
He's the classic rags-to-riches story.
Hearst, on the other hand, is a riches-to-riches story if there ever was one.
Nasaw: William Randolph Hearst, at Harvard, majored in showgirls, theater, and newspapers.
Read the every day religiously, and decided that he knew how to run a newspaper.
Hearst: 'I am convinced that I could run a newspaper successfully, to clip some leading journal like which is undoubtedly the best paper of that class, which appeals to the people, which depends for its success upon enterprise, energy, and startling originality.'
Driver: Hearst bought the only a few months after Albert Pulitzer sold it.
Daly: Hearst is now going to head-to-head with the man he admires the most, Joseph Pulitzer.
Nasaw: Hearst immediately goes after the major illustrators, the major editors, the major writers, the major columnists who work for Pulitzer.
And he steals them all away.
Daly: And now the Yellow Kid was in Hearst's paper.
So both of these papers became associated with this cartoon.
That's the origin of the phrase 'yellow journalism.'
Tucher: The circulation battle becomes epic.
They both drop their prices.
They work on the same stories, and they criticize each other by name.
Daly: These two were going head-to-head, and trying to sell to everybody.
So they were trying to top each other all the time with the most amazing headlines, the wildest crusades, the craziest stunts.
♪ Pulitzer paid for Nellie Bly to go off around the world and try to set a world record for circling the globe.
There was never a dull day in that competition between Hearst and Pulitzer.
McGrath Morris: So every act of irresponsible journalism William Randolph Hearst's was doing, the would copy it and engage in it.
Nasaw: So when the Hearst papers reported something at 2:00 in the afternoon, Pulitzer people put it in their 4:00 edition.
McGrath Morris: Famously, Hearst runs an item in his paper about a colonel with an unpronounceable name.
Nasaw: Reflipe W. Thenuz.
McGrath Morris: The in the paper, at which point Hearst announced that this colonel's unpronounceable last name was actually an anagram for 'We pilfer the news.'
Nasaw: And he now had evidence that the only place Pulitzer could've possibly gotten this story was by stealing it from the And therefore, no reader to trust anything he read in the Pulitzer papers.
He should, instead, buy the McGrath Morris: Frankly, before 1898, the two newspapers were engaged in sensationalism.
But their stories were always built on some element of truth.
During the competition between the two papers, during the Spanish-American War, they actually fabricated the news.
[ Bomb exploding ] ♪ Nasaw: In 1898, the United States of America becomes a player on the world stage such as it had never been before.
Daly: Hearst and Pulitzer both started covering the rising tension in Cuba.
And both of them realized that they could sell more papers if this were more of a conflict -- if it were more exciting, if it might drag the U.S. into it.
Baker: There are really two wars that are in progress here.
One is the brewing war between the United States and Spain and Cuba, and the other is this war between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer over how to shape this war, how to stoke the enthusiasm for it, and how to make money off it.
Daly: The McKinley administration sends a U.S. battleship to Havana Harbor for observation.
We're not involved yet, but we're just going to have a look.
Nasaw: The had no business being on Cuban waters, but was there to show American fortitude and American strength.
♪ The blew up.
Daly: It was not obvious why it blew up.
But again, that didn't matter to William Randolph Hearst.
He decided instantly that this was the doing of the dastardly Spaniards, and highlighted this on the front page of his newspaper -- banner headlines screaming for U.S. intervention.
Pulitzer was coming along on the same track, but a little more slowly -- a little more, I would say, responsibly, from a journalistic point of view.
Baker: This is one of the editions of the from Wednesday, February 16, 1898.
Big news is Many Killed, and the Wounded Unable to Tell What Caused the Explosion.'
Daly: But by day two, the editors at the could see that Hearst was already way out ahead of them.
He was already off to the races, demanding war.
And they joined in the hue and cry for U.S. intervention.
Baker: 'Not an Accident, Captain Sigsbee Says.'
'Our Appalling Disaster,' says the editorial page.
'Congress Ready to Declare War Today' is the headline for Wednesday, April 6, 1898.
Meanwhile, they're going to tell you that this was the 'March Circulation, 822,000 copies per day.'
♪ Nasaw: They made the political situation in Cuba into melodrama.
The Cuban Independence fighters were made over into little Thomas Jeffersons, Paul Reveres.
♪ ♪ They had five, six, seven editions a day.
Extra sections, and more illustrations, and more reporters.
And they incurred tremendous telegram telegram charges to send their news back to New York.
♪ The Spanish-American War, for the Pulitzer and Hearst papers, was a mixed blessing.
They sold more newspapers than ever before, and they lost more money than ever before.
♪ Driver: Both Hearst and Pulitzer were lambasted for 'yellow journalism,' defined as overheated, entertaining, and, often, inaccurate news reporting.
Daly: Joseph Pulitzer, to his great credit, later regretted his role in that episode.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Hearst, on the other hand, never had any second thoughts.
In fact, Hearst boasted about the war during it and afterward.
♪ Czitrom: America's political elites -- President McKinley, the folks who made policy -- were thinking about other things aside from the newspapers.
They were thinking about the Depression that was just ending.
They were thinking about the need to expand American markets.
I don't think the media operate separately from the society.
They're not something that is somehow set apart.
The media are, themselves, corporate institutions that are deeply involved with the economy and, obviously, in the culture and the business world of the United States.
And this has always been true -- true in Pulitzer's time, and true in our time.
Nasaw: Many Americans who supported the first battle in what became the Spanish-American war would be appalled at what came next.
The United States, which had fought for its independence against a colonial power -- that the United States was now becoming a colonial power.
Driver: The U.S. now controlled four territories -- Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
Pulitzer objected to these relationships.
Pulitzer: 'Colonialism will only give the country inflated ideas about our self-importance and cultural superiority.
Colonialism will divert us from the real work, which is internal -- giving our citizens health, education, and welfare.'
♪ ♪ Czitrom: Here is this man who still wants to be in charge, but is living on a boat with all these young men messengering back and forth his ideas, reading him aloud from the paper, describing the art.
He's still trying to be in charge, but he's blind.
Tucher: Even after Pulitzer became ill, he paid enormous attention to the newspaper.
He never let go his deep interest and concern, and micromanaging style that probably incredibly annoying.
He had a legendary city editor called Charles Chapin, who was a viscous, nasty, dreadful person who boasted at having fired 108 people in his first ten years on the job.
Legendarily savage, who ended up in Sing Sing for having murdered his wife -- and somehow, that seemed perfectly reasonable at Pulitzer's papers.
Driver: Joseph's brother, Albert, followed a different trajectory.
While Joseph held on tightly to both of his papers and his progressive agenda, Albert retired and wrote a novel, then an autobiography.
Like his older sibling, he suffered from multiple nervous ailments and severe depression.
His life ended tragically.
Baker: Joseph Pulitzer's younger brother decided to kill himself, and he did it two different ways.
He took poison and shot himself.
Pulitzer himself didn't go to Albert's funeral, so there's some sort of complicated emotion going on here.
Driver: Joseph II wrote of his father -- Pulitzer II: 'The last ten years of his life, he was perhaps more irascible than he had been as a younger man.
With his terrific energy, he could not stop thinking all the time, worrying all the time.'
Pulitzer: 'I own the paper, and am responsible for its owner.
It should make enemies constantly, the more the better, for only by making enemies can it expose roguery and serve the public.'
♪ Driver: Pulitzer's unceasing war against corruption prompted him to challenge the legitimacy of President Teddy Roosevelt's proudest achievement -- the continent-spanning Panama Canal.
Nasaw: What the Roosevelt administration did was to stage a war of independence -- a civil war in what would become known as the nation of Panama.
The new nation of Panama invited American capital and the American government in, to build a Panama canal.
[ Explosion echoing ] ♪ Driver: President Teddy Roosevelt's project, the building of the Panama Canal, handed Pulitzer his last great and most challenging confrontation.
Baker: 'Panama Revolution a Stock Gamblers' Plan to Make Millions.
Real Story of the Plot Told for the First Time.'
Czitrom: Theodore Roosevelt is furious at Pulitzer, because Pulitzer's world has had the temerity of suggesting that the Panama Canal, Roosevelt's greatest achievement, might be tinged with corruption.
♪ Driver: Pulitzer's reporters investigated the involvement of the United States in creating the new country of Panama, and sought to identify those who stole $40 million of canal financing.
Czitrom: And the idea that this paper could attack Theodore Roosevelt's greatest achievement so upset Theodore Roosevelt, that he instructed the U.S. Attorney in Washington to seek prosecution of Pulitzer for a crime known as criminal libel.
Now, you can search the federal law books.
There is no such thing as criminal libel.
But Theodore Roosevelt was saying, 'I don't care.'
Roosevelt: 'I don't care.
You find some way to imprison him!
I do not know anything of the law of criminal libel, but I should dearly have it invoked against Mr. Pulitzer.
Pulitzer is one of those creatures of the gutter of such unspeakable degradation that to him, even eminence on a dunghill seems enviable.
The fact is that these particular newspapers habitually and continually, and as a matter of business, practice every form of mendacity known to man, from the suppression of the truth and the suggestion of the false, to the lie direct!'
Driver: Roosevelt threatened to jail the publisher, and pushed his attorneys to bring the case to the Supreme Court.
Pulitzer: The even if he should succeed in compelling me to edit the paper from jail.
I think it is simply his effort to shut up the paper's criticism, just as he has tried to shut up the Congress and the Senate and bulldoze the courts.
But he cannot muzzle the ♪ [ Gull crying ] Driver: Nearly three years after Roosevelt condemned Pulitzer, the Supreme Court announced its decision.
♪ Baker: 'Supreme Court Unanimously Decides Panama Libel Case in Favor of the Chief Justice White Hands Down the Decision Sustaining the Position on Every Point.'
Driver: The Supreme Court's ruling in favor of Pulitzer upheld the constitutional principle of freedom of the press.
It suggested that not even the president is above the law.
♪ [ Waves lapping, hull splashing ] ♪ ♪ Driver: Nine months after his Supreme Court victory, Pulitzer fell ill aboard the ♪ ♪ Czitrom: On this particular day, the yacht was anchored in Charleston Harbor and his secretary was reading aloud from a book about Louis XI.
As was his habit when he grew drowsy, Pulitzer would say in German -- Pulitzer: '[Speaking German] -- Softly -- very softly.'
Driver: His private secretary, Alleyne Ireland, wrote -- Ireland: 'He was evidently suffering a good deal of pain.
And a few minutes after 6:00 A.M., J.P. said --' Pulitzer: 'Now, Mr. Ireland, you'd better go and get some sleep.
We will finish that this afternoon.
Goodbye. I'm most obliged to you.'
♪ Ireland: 'At lunch, we spoke of J.P.
One man said that he seemed a little worse than usual, another that he'd seen him worse a score of times.
I turned in my seat and saw, framed, the towering figure of the captain.
I faced his impassive glance, and received the full shock of his calm but incredible announcement, 'Mr. Pulitzer is dead.'' ♪ ♪ Baker: So, he had a tremendous appetite to startle and provoke and surprise.
And that's an amazing ambition to have.
♪ I know he was a difficult guy, but it was because he really took this thing seriously.
He knew that this was something that had never existed in the world before.
♪ ♪ Tucher: After Joseph Pulitzer's death, the The sons who were involved with the didn't have the skill, didn't maybe have the interest.
It declined gently and slowly until finally, it was sold by the sons.
♪ The last the it was part of a conglomerate known colloquially as 'The Widget,' 'The World Journal Telegram.'
And it faded away.
Lee: The newspaper building was torn down in order to create more access to the Brooklyn Bridge.
That was a Robert Moses decision.
The cornerstone box was not found when they were taking down the building, until a backhoe actually hit it.
Archives that had been in the building were just sent to a dumpster.
And a junk dealer found them, and Joseph Pulitzer Jr. purchased them.
♪ Driver: Although Pulitzer's New York empire did not survive, three generations of the Pulitzer Family embraced his commitment to progressive journalism at the But in 2005, with no heir apparent, the Pulitzer Family, led by grandson Michael Pulitzer and Joe Jr.'s widow, Emily, sold the company for nearly $1.5 billion.
♪ Emily Pulitzer: After Joe died, I became a member of the board.
I became the swing vote, which was very, very difficult.
Clearly, it was difficult to destroy a long tradition, and a glorious one.
♪ Nasaw: Every day, there comes a moment when I wish we had a Pulitzer around -- when I wish we had a crusading newspaper publisher who would do whatever he had to do to get the story, to nail the scoundrels, and would use every means towards that end.
Tucher: Newspapers have always been seen as important to democracy.
This is why they were mentioned by name in the Bill of Rights.
This is why journalism is protected -- is the only private profession that is protected in the Bill of Rights.
But it often failed.
The failures of journalism to protect and support and live up to democracy are legion.
We all have our own list of examples.
Pulitzer took that really seriously.
Protestors: We are Michael Brown!
We are Michael Brown!
We are Michael Brown!
We are Michael Brown!
We are Michael Brown!
We are Michael Brown!
We are Michael Brown!
We are Michael Brown!
Man: Please don't kill me!
♪ Driver: Joseph Pulitzer's uncompromising commitment to aggressive investigative reporting lives on as the daily guardian of America's democratic ideals.
The Pulitzer Prizes are his enduring legacy.
They reflect his aspirations of what journalism can be.
Pulitzer: 'A journalist is the lookout on the bridge of the ship of state.
He notes the passing sail, the little things of interest that dot the horizon in fine weather.
He reports the drifting castaway whom the ship can save.
He peers through fog and storm to give warnings of dangers ahead.
He is not thinking of his wages or the profits of his owners.
He is there to watch over the safety and the welfare of the people who trust him.'
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ -To order 'Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People' on DVD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
'American Masters' series is also available on Amazon Prime Video.
♪ ♪ ♪