Champion of the Free Press, Joseph Pulitzer, featured on “American Masters”
Discover the man behind the Pulitzer Prize – journalist, media mogul and champion of a free press Joseph Pulitzer – on a new American Masters special this April.
A Jewish immigrant from Hungary, Joseph Pulitzer started his career 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 emerged as the country’s first media titan, reshaping the newspaper to bear witness to and even propel that transformation.
Pulitzer fearlessly battled monopolies, challenged corrupt governments, called for taxes for incomes above $10,000 and crusaded against doctored milk, contaminated water and harmful tenement conditions. He also fought to establish decent wages, safer working conditions and a shorter workday, mounting determined crusades against entrenched interests at a time when few dailies did so. Joseph Pulitzer championed what he regarded as the sacred role of the free press in a democracy and his newspaper, the World, became America’s first national paper.
Toward the end of his career, Pulitzer called the Panama Canal an act of colonial aggression and insisted that the government account for the $40 million that went missing from the project. President Theodore Roosevelt sued Pulitzer for “criminal libel” and Pulitzer fought Roosevelt all the way to the Supreme Court to ensure that no self-serving presidential pronouncements could muzzle the press.
“Freedom of speech is not a favor to be exercised at the pleasure of the President,” Pulitzer declared.
American Masters – Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People premieres Friday, April 12, at 9pm on CET, Saturday, April 13, at 9pm on ThinkTV16, and Wednesday, April 17, at 9pm on ThinkTV14.