Joseph Pulitzer II and the "Post-Dispatch": A Newspaperman's Life

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9780271007489: Joseph Pulitzer II and the

This biography brings the song of "the" Joseph Pulitzer out from behind his colorful father's shadow and shows him to have been one of American's most important newspapermen, ranking with Adolph Ochs, William Allen White, and Robert R. McCormick.

Based on hitherto untapped archival sources, including a wealth of personal correspondence, this first biography of Joseph Pulitzer II tells the story of his drive and dedication to make the St. Louis Post-Dispatch one of the most effective liberal newspapers in the United States. Daniel Pfaff covers the seventy-year lifetime of the bearer of a famous name who succeeded in advancing the highest ideals of mainstream liberal journalism in his forty-three-year career as editor-publisher of the Post-Dispatch and head of the Pulitzer Publishing Company.

Unlike his colorful father (1847–1911), who is now chiefly remembered for establishing the Pulitzer Prizes at Columbia University and for creating a so-called new journalism that combined attention-getting sensationalism with public-service investigatory crusading at the turn of the century, the second Joseph Pulitzer (1885–1955) was a man of more even temperament and measured administrative style. Throughout his career he was unswervingly dedicated to his father's highest ideals. But he and his staff had new waters to navigate: two world wars, the Great Depression, the beginning of the civil rights movement, and involvement in what became the Vietnam War as well as the challenges of combating malfeasance in state and local political and business circles.

Operated by one of the ablest staffs in the country, the Post-Dispatch under Joseph Pulitzer II achieved national and international distinction by the late 1920s and maintained that stature throughout his career. In contrast, the New York World, which the first Joseph Pulitzer had intended to be his lasting monument had left in the care of his other two sons, foundered and, in 1931, failed. Had it not been for the journalistic acumen of Pulitzer's namesake son, in whom he had the least confidence, the Pulitzer presence in American journalism would have ended then. Instead, it is still thriving today.

While Joseph Pulitzer II's professional life and his newspaper's involvement in events of this era form the major part of this biography, Pfaff also chronicles his personal life—his sometimes stormy relationship with is father, his two marriages, and his social and recreational life. Thus the book succeeds in giving a well-rounded picture of the man and his times.

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About the Author:

Daniel W. Pfaff is Associate Professor of Journalism and Associate Dean in the School of Communications at The Pennsylvania State University.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Solid biography of the longtime editor-publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by Pfaff (Journalism/Penn State). Joseph Pulitzer, Sr., was a larger-than-life figure, a Hungarian Jew plagued by diabetes, ill-health, and violent mood- swings who once shot a fellow-legislator for calling him a liar. (Joseph II later took a swing at William Randolph Hearst for calling his father a pimp.) Pulitzer, Sr., continued to run his publishing empire after going blind, all the while harassing his three sons unceasingly. His middle son and namesake (1885-1955) grew into a big, hearty, sports-loving, happy-go-lucky adolescent who was thrown out of prep school, flunked out of Harvard, made friends wherever he went, and became quintessentially American while infuriating Father by his enjoyment of life. As much a book about publishing greats, this is a father-son black comedy about a pair of high-stakes edge-players, both of them awesomely industrious. The father demanded an endless apprenticeship of his sons that involved reporting in detail on daily activities and being moved about the world like chessmen, but Joseph II never feared him, crossing him from time to time (e.g., by suggesting that lucrative patent-medicine ads be dropped from his father's New York World). Joseph II stuck it out, and after his father's death in 1911 created a great ``crusading, liberal, usually Democratic'' newspaper that sent reporters far afield. ``Many a politician and wealthy St. Louis businessman detested the Post-Dispatch,'' says Pfaff, and with reason--it pioneered investigative journalism on issues including the Teapot Dome scandal, the impeachment of corrupt judges, and even an illegal railroad-franchise scheme involving Joseph II's uncle. By the time of his death in 1955, Joseph Pulitzer II was virtually blind himself, working as hard as his father ever had. The vigor and creativity of the Pulitzers have never been in question, but who they were as people comes through richly here. (Sixty-nine photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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