Clip | Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People - Joseph Pulitzer and the Brooklyn Bridge

When the Brooklyn Bridge opened, Pulitzer challenged the one-penny pedestrian toll in his paper with a four-column woodcut of the bridge on the front page of the World, and declared: “Let the Bridge Be Free / A Penny Is a Workman’s Lunch.”

Transcript Print

(music) (horse hooves) - [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.

- 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 gonna 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.

(tense music) (people fighting) (gun shots) - He was accused of being a sensationalist.

His response was, 'I am reporting on what really happens in the world.

There are crimes in the world.

There are 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.

- [Narrator] Pulitzer first made news when the majestic Brooklyn Bridge opened in May 1883, only 10 days after he purchased the World.

In their tone-deaf quest for revenue, the city fathers levied a one penny pedestrian toll.

The World splashed a four column wood-cut illustration of the great suspension bridge across its front page and demanded, '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.'

- [Narrator] Pulitzer's challenge could not have been more timely.

Working people quickly understood that a fearless new champion had come to town.