Newspaper Production in the Life of Joseph Pulitzer

The spread of information through newspaper print and publishing went through a massive makeover at the turn of the 20th century.  From the early 1900’s to the present, journalists have followed 3 major rules: “accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy.”[1]  These three rules have established modern journalism as people know today.  This radical system of publication was the creation of one man named Joseph Pulitzer.

After moving to New York from St. Louis to take over the failing New York World, Pulitzer began to change the layout of the newspaper immediately.  The first difference in the World that could be seen was the headlines of the newspaper.  Before Pulitzer, the World published newspaper with boring headlines that took up too much space, for instance: “Bench Show of Dogs: Prizes Awarded on the Second Day of the Meeting in Madison Square Garden.”[2]  Just a few weeks after Pulitzer took the reigns at the Herald, headlines looked very different: “Baptized in Blood.”[3]  The story summarized the deaths of 11 people at the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge on a Sunday where a riot broke out.[4]

These luring headlines enticed readers to take a look, but the stories themselves made the people, and more importantly, the editors want to read the newspaper.  Pulitzer’s formula for success was very simple, to write a story so simple that anyone could read, but also so colorful that no one would forget.[5]  Another technique Pulitzer encouraged his journalists to incorporate in articles were interviews.[6]  A new idea at the time, Pulitzer wanted the voices of the city to be heard as in the articles the World published.

In complete harmony with pushing the boundaries of the text itself in journal articles, Pulitzer in addition integrated pictures into the stories he published.  As Jack Shafer states in “The Lost World of Joseph Pulitzer,” halftone photos, dramatic and comic illustrations, inset graphics, hand-lettered headlines, and buckets of color enlivened these artful pages.[7]  The picture inlayed with the text of an article gives the World a three-dimensional quality that is very real and engaging with the reader, a quality only the World possessed at the beginning.

At a time when radio wasn’t for sale to the public, television was still a theory, and film had not reached its full potential, the newspaper was the only source of information and even entertainment.  Pulitzer was able to give the subscribers of the World both the entertainment they wanted, and the accurate information they needed to live their lives.

[1]               Judith Sheppard, “Playing defense,” American Journalism Review, September 1998, 49.

[2]               James McGrath Morris, “Man of the World,” Wilson Quarterly 34, Winter2010, 28-33.

[3]               Ibid.

[4]               Ibid.

[5]               Ibid.

[6]               Ibid.

[7]               Jack Shafer, The Lost World of Joseph Pulitzer, (accessed September 28, 2011).

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