The Pulitzer name has been synonymous with journalistic excellence since 1917, when the first Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding newspaper reporting were awarded. The prizes were created and funded by St. Louis Post-Dispatch founder Joseph Pulitzer, and the Post-Dispatch has won 16 of the coveted awards.
In 1878, Pulitzer bought the Evening Dispatch, and merged it with the Evening Post, forming the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Five years later, he moved east and bought the New York World, a struggling newspaper that he transformed into a profitable and crusading paper with the largest circulation in the nation. The sensationalist New York World often was accused of "yellow journalism."
By 1903, when the Hungarian-born Pulitzer had become famous and wealthy publishing newspapers, he offered Columbia University $2 million to establish a journalism school. He specified that income from $500,000 of his gift be "applied to prizes or scholarships for the encouragement of public service, public morals, American literature and the advancement of education." This $500,000 bequest led to the establishment of the Pulitzer Prizes.
Soon after Pulitzer's death in 1911, Columbia opened a graduate school of journalism. Several years earlier, in an article published by the North American Review, Pulitzer had defined the objectives of his proposed journalism school:
"It is to exalt principle, knowledge, culture, at the expense of business, if need be. It is to set up ideals, to keep the countingroom in its proper place, and to make the soul of the editor the soul of the paper."
If he were alive today, what would Joseph Pulitzer think about the legal and financial battle that his heirs are waging over control of the Post-Dispatch?
"He would deplore it, I'm sure," said his 72-year-old grandson, Joseph Pulitzer Jr.