In contrast with Hearst, the originally St. Louis-based Pulitzer supported labor, criticized big-business monopolies, and sought to expose political corruption. He attempted to raise the standards and reputation of journalists by founding the Pulitzer Prizes for exemplary articles and books.
His father had been a successful grain merchant in Hungary, but he died when Joseph was eleven and his mother remarried a few years later. After emigrating to the United States, Joseph fought in the Civil War on the side of the Union.
Unsuccessful in his first business, Joseph began working as reporter and acquired part ownership of the Westliche Post, a German-language publication. He became a state legislator in Missouri, and in 1877 he married a niece of Jefferson Davis, Kate Davis.
His big break in publishing came when he purchased the New York World in 1883 from Jay Gould. Pulitzer enjoyed great success with that newspaper, both politically and financially. But when he reached 40 years old, he tragically became blind, though he continued to run his newspaper companies. In the 1890s he competed directly with William Randolph Hearst, and turned to "yellow journalism" to boost circulation: utilizing shocking headlines, sensationalism and cartoons in an attempt to attract immigrants and working class readers.
In 1895 Pulitzer ran the first full-page original original cartoon, called "Yellow Kid" and designed by cartoonist Richard Outcault. The cartoon itself was not in the style of "yellow journalism," but its popularity led to the cartoon's name being used to describe the entire style of its paper. Outcault later moved to one of William Randolph Hearst's newspapers, the New York Journal.
Both Pulitzer and Hearst played a prominent role in inciting the Spanish-American War in 1898, as they were engaged in a circulation struggle that led to the sensationalism about the war. However, today liberal accounts and school textbooks almost entirely blame the pro-business Hearst for causing that war rather than the more liberal-leaning Pulitzer.
Pulitzer's will established the Columbia University School of Journalism, and annual Pulitzer Prizes for journalism, literature, drama and music, which have been awarded since 1917. The prize has occasionally been criticized for going to leftist and sometimes even fraudulent works.
- "Both Hearst and Pulitzer published images of Spanish troops placing Cubans into concentration camps where they were suffered and died from disease and hunger."