Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) was born in Hungary and immigrated to the United States in 1864 to serve in the Union Army. After his discharge, he settled in St. Louis, where he became a reporter for the Westliche Post, a German-language daily for which he did such an outstanding job that his popularity enabled him to be elected to the Missouri legislature. His next important move was to purchase the St. Louis Dispatch, which was in dire financial condition, and to merge it with the Post, giving it the combined name of St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper became a first-rank regional paper.
Pulitzer then changed location and papers. After moving to New York, he purchased the New York World, in which he introduced banner headlines and the sensational treatment of crime. The paper’s style of presentation was considered intemperate, and the vulgarity of his special features intensified as he went into a circulation war with William Hearst’s Journal. Although guilty of «yellow journalism» to involve this country in what turned out to be the Spanish-American War, the paper made a remarkable about-face and pursued such a strong anti-imperialist policy that Teddy Roosevelt became irate, and the government sued Pulitzer for libel.
Pulitzer’s will provided for some notable distributions, including the establishment of the Columbia University School of Journalism, which confers the Pulitzer Prizes.
The prizes, as prescribed by Pulitzer, covered many categories. A prize was to be awarded for new writing, drama, fiction, history; for local, national, and international reporting, editorial writing, news photography, cartooning, and meritorious public service performed by an individual newspaper. Additional prizes were for biography, poetry, and music. The prizes were awarded for the first time in 1917.
Originally the prizes were for $1,000, but they are now $3,000, except for public service in journalism, which is rewarded with a gold medal. The Pulitzer, as it is most often called, is widely regarded as the most prestigious award in its field.