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#135 Joseph Pulitzer (Politics & Media)
July 12th, 2020 | E135

What I learned from reading Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power by James McGrath Morris.


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[0:20]  Joseph Pulitzer was the midwife to the birth of the modern mass media. Pulitzer’s lasting achievement was to transform American journalism into a medium of mass consumption and immense influence. 

[3:04] He was the pioneer of the modern media industry.  

[5:06] Teddy Roosevelt tried to have Joseph Pulitzer put in jail.  

[7:11] How one of Pulitzer’s adult sons viewed him: One of the strange differences between us two is the fact that you have never come near learning how to enjoy life. 

[9:42] Joseph favored reading works of history and biography.  

[10:12] Joseph understood fully the extent of the calamity [his father’s death]. He had been 9 years old when his older brother died, 10 when his younger brother and sister died, 11 when his father died, and 13 at the death of his last sister. 

[11:50] At 17 years old Joseph escapes to America. A group of wealthy Boston businessmen recruit thousands of young Europeans to fight for the Union in the American Civil War. This scheme became Pulitzer’s escape route. 

[13:18] Describing how he came to the United States: He was friendless, homeless, tongueless, and guideless.  

[14:05]  One of the places he slept when he was homeless was in the lobby of a hotel. They kept kicking him out. Later in life he buys the hotel. 

[14:44] What he said about his job of tending mules: Never in my life did I have a more trying task. The man who has not cared for 16 mules does not know what work and trouble are.  

[15:18] Pulitzer was a voracious reader. When he was not working he spent every free minute improving his mind.  

[17:12]  Edwin Land said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess". Joseph Pulitzer would have agreed with that. 

[19:15]He was so industrious that he became a positive annoyance to others who felt less inclined to work. Pulitzer was unwilling to put forward anything but his best effort. 

[25:10] In only 5 years he had grown from a bounty hunting Hungarian teenager to an American lawmaker.  

[28:54] There are only two or three human stories and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they have never happened before.  

[38:10] He is 30 years old and depressed. In the best of circumstances the loss of one’s only surviving parent inspires self-reflection, for Joseph with no specific profession or even a home, such introspection was demoralizing.  

[40:45] It is hard to understand how much money newspapers made, especially at this time. William Randolph Hearst’s net worth would be the equivalent of $30 billion today.  

[48:34] One did not work with Pulitzer. For him, surely. Against him, often. But not with him.  

[51:44] Pulitzer was extremely ambitious. He was not satisfied to be the 500th best newspaper. He wanted to be number 1.  

[1:06:20] When we think that, a hundred years hence, not one of us now living will be alive to care or to know, to enjoy or to suffer, what does it all amount to? To a puff of smoke which makes a few rings and then disappears into nothingness and yet we make tragedies of our lives, most of us not even making them serious comedies. 


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