Happy Birthday, Joseph Pulitzer!

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Ritika Sharma / Emirates Business

It’s a day of celebration for us – the journalists, especially the ones who are so by passion. Today, in the year 1847, a boy was born in Hungary, who changed the very meaning of journalism. Defying all odds — from being rejected for US army due to health issues to learning a language he knew nothing about (English), Pulitzer’s story has long been a source of inspiration for aspiring journalists and will continue to be so.
When I was a student, lessons on life of Pulitzer and his extraordinary contributions to the field, became the main force behind choosing journalism as career for life.
Pulitzer, who at one point in his career was accused of yellow journalism, became the father of modern day responsible journalism. Had it not been for his efforts and his entrepreneurial spirit, journalism would not have been as we know it now.
On occasion of his birthday, there are a few things about Pulitzer, you can draw inspiration from. Let us take you through the journey of his life to understand what made him a
‘revolution’ in the field of journalism.

Don’t ever give up, ever!

If there is one life-lesson that you cannot miss if you know even a bit about Pulitzer, it is this – NEVER GIVE UP. Pulitzer came to US when he was just 19. He wanted to be in the US army but was rejected on account of his poor vision and petite body. Then he reached the Lincoln Cavalry and worked his way to St. Louis as a baggage handler and waiter. Despite all odds, he was still resilient and positive that something ‘worth’ will come his way.
His journalism career started with a job at Westliche Post, a German language daily in 1868. Four years later, in 1872, Pulitzer, who had built a
reputation as a tireless enterprising journalist, was offered a controlling interest in the paper by the nearly bankrupt owners. At age 25, Pulitzer became a publisher and later in 1878 the owner of St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a rising figure on the journalistic scene.

Keep learning even if you don’t know a bit
Pulitzer was fluent in Hungarian, French and German but had very little knowledge of English. So, he took that up as a challenge when he arrived in US and learnt the language which he skillfully mastered. Later in 1883, he moved to New York, where he
acquired the New York World and founded the New York Evening World (1887) and became one of the most powerful newspaper publishers in the United States. The yellow journalism period came into full play during a four-month-long circulation battle he had with William Randolph Hearst’s Journal.
Learn from your mistakes and start afresh
But later, Pulitzer’s lapse into “yellow journalism” was outweighed by his public service achievements. He realised journalism should be a tool of societal improvement and not just a weapon of self interest. It was since then, that he led courageous and often successful campaigns against corrupt practices in government and business. He was responsible for passage of antitrust legislation and
regulation of the insurance industry in the country back then.

Try new things, take risks
Notable accomplishments of Pulitzer, include marvelous improvements in circulation of both Post-Dispatch and The New York World, the first extensive use of illustrations in the paper, exposing corruption, innovative news stunts make him an extraordinary. He could have been satisfied by his journalism career but he tried his hand in politics as well. He was a leading figure in the Democratic Party and was an elected Congressman from New York.

Be fearless
According to www.pulitzer.org, the official website of Pulitzer prize, in 1909, The World exposed a fraudulent payment of US$40 million by the United States to the French Panama Canal Company.
The federal government lashed back at The World by indicting Pulitzer for criminally libeling President Theodore Roosevelt and the banker J.P. Morgan, among others. Pulitzer refused to retreat, and The World persisted in its investigation. When the courts dismissed the indictments, Pulitzer was applauded for a crucial victory on behalf of freedom of the press.
Pulitzer died in 1911 on his yacht in South Carolina but his life became a lesson not only for every ‘journalist-to-be,’ but for everyone who wants to live his passion.
He is a true legend because like every one of us, he was not right all the time, but he was true to his passion. His will left US$2 million to establish journalism school in New York City at Columbia University – The Columbia School Of Journalism, the dream institute of every journalism student.


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