Joseph Pulitzer, who was born on this day in 1847, is a classic story of rags to riches.
The Hungarian-born Pulitzer immigrated to America 1864; he was penniless, spoke very little English, and knew no one. After several poverty-stricken years—he slept on park benches and took the most menial jobs—Pulitzer landed a job at a German-language newspaper in St. Louis, and within a year rose from reporter to managing editor.
In 1878, he launched the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and five years later, the New York World, transforming both papers into examples of exceptional journalism. He was also an elected member of the New York delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.
By the time of his death in 1911, Pulitzer had one of the richest households in America, according to his New York Times obituary. He gave $1 million of his fortune to Columbia University for its journalism school, and in 1917, the university began awarding Pulitzer Prizes.
Publishing titan William Randolph Hearst described Pulitzer as “the founder and foremost exemplar of modern journalism—the great originator and exponent of the journalism of action and achievement.”
As you might imagine, Pulitzer said a number of insightful and useful things about journalism (and, believe it or not, PR). Here are seven examples:
“Publicity, publicity, publicity is the greatest moral factor and force in our public life.”
“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”
“A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will in time produce a people as base as itself.”
“Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.”
“I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.”
“The Post and Dispatch will serve no party but the people; will be no organ of Republicanism, but the organ of truth, will follow no caucuses but its own convictions; will not support the Administration, but criticize it; will oppose all frauds and shams wherever and whatever they are; will advocate principles and ideas rather than prejudices and partisanship.”
“My especial object is to help the poor; the rich can help themselves. I believe in self-made men.”