Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
S33 Ep5

Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People

Premiere: 4/12/2019 | 00:02:14 |

Discover the man behind the prizes. A journalist who became a media mogul with an outspoken, cantankerous editorial voice and best-selling newspapers, Joseph Pulitzer championed what he regarded as the sacred role of the free press in a democracy.

About the Episode

Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People explores the remarkable man behind the prestigious prizes. A Jewish immigrant from Hungary, Joseph Pulitzer began as a gifted journalist before becoming a successful publisher and businessman. Pulitzer was famous in his own time for his outspoken and cantankerous editorial voice and his newspapers’ striking illustrations, visual style, national circulation and financial success. Against the context of America’s explosive growth as a world force during the Gilded Age, Pulitzer emerges as the country’s first media titan, reshaping the newspaper to bear witness to and even propel that transformation. Joseph Pulitzer championed what he regarded as the sacred role of the free press in a democracy. At the end of Pulitzer’s life, President Theodore Roosevelt sued him for “criminal libel,” citing the ongoing investigation of potential corruption in the building of the Panama Canal. Pulitzer’s little-known Supreme Court victory in 1911 established important precedent for the First Amendment right to free speech and resonates strongly in today’s fraught political environment.

Narrated by Adam Driver, the documentary tells the story of Pulitzer’s life and accomplishments through a combination of archival footage, reenactments and interviews with authors, journalists and scholars. Liev Schreiber is the voice of Pulitzer. Tim Blake Nelson is the voice of Roosevelt and Rachel Brosnahan is the voice of investigative journalist Nellie Bly.

SHARE
PRODUCTION CREDITS

Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People  is a production of Oren Rudavsky Productions and Folium Films in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC’s American Masters for WNET. The film is directed by Oren Rudavsky, who is also a co-producer with Andrea Miller and Robert Seidman. Oren Rudavsky and Robert Seidman are writers. Ramon Rivera Moret is editor. Original music is by Clare and Olivier Manchon. Michael Kantor is American Masters series executive producer.

About American Masters
Launched in 1986 on PBS, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, American Masters offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the podcast American Masters: Creative Spark, educational resources, digital original series and more. The series is a production of The WNET Group.

American Masters is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.

FUNDING

Major support for Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support is provided in part by Roxanne and Scott Bok, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Leslie and Roslyn Goldstein Foundation, and Norman Pearlstine and Jane Boon.

Support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judith & Burton Resnick, Seton Melvin Charitable Trust, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Vital Projects Fund, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Koo and Patricia Yuen and public television viewers.

TRANSCRIPT

(typewriter keys clicking) - [Joseph] There is only one way to get a democracy on its feet, and that is by keeping the public informed.

(upbeat piano music) - Joseph Pulitzer has an idea that newspapers ought to be short and smart and snappy.

- All of a sudden, here comes Pulitzer saying that news is really about what happens to ordinary people.

About people just like you.

- Here's this two dimensional medium of paper and ink.

How can we make it leap into a third dimension?

- Pulitzer helped convince Americans that they had to become a nation of newspaper readers.

The day was not complete without the paper.

- [Adam] Pulitzer dreamed of becoming a soldier, and propelled himself into the midst of America's defining conflict.

Like other immigrant recruits, Pulitzer, the penniless Jewish immigrant from Hungary, took the place of wealthy draft dodging Americans.

- Pulitzer is one of these extraordinary immigrants who becomes more American than a native-born, has an extraordinary ambition, and I think, an anger.

- [Adam] Joseph was an unstoppable workaholic.

A man who walked into a revolving door behind you, yet somehow emerged in front of you.

(dramatic orchestra music) - [Joseph] There is room for a journal that is truly democratic, that will expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses, that will serve and battle for the people with earnest sincerity.

- [Man] It was almost a religious belief in democracy.

- [Man] It was a world of print, and the master of that world was Pulitzer.

(light music) - Every day, I wish we had a Pulitzer who would do what ever he had to do to get the story, to nail the scoundrels, and would use every means towards that end.

- [Joseph] A journalist is the look out on the bridge of the ship of state.

He is there to watch over the safety and the welfare of the people who trust him.

© 2022 WNET. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.