Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World ⋆ Politicrossing
Connect with us

Politics

Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World

Addressing the class structure in America wherein immigrants failed to acquire sophistication and polish, Pulitzer’s editors were told to concentrate on stories about sex, violence, crime, tragedy, and farce.

Published

on

Joseph Pulitzer was a sensationalist who helped perfect the screaming headline, tabloid mentality that exists to this day. Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World, by George Juergens was published by the Princeton University Press, in 1966.  Here are vital notes and excerpts from the book:

“The goal of sensational journalism is to catch the interest, even to titillate, the vast body of men and women who for one reason or another are unconcerned with the happenings in government, business, or the arts.”

Sensationalism isn’t Pretty

Sensational newspapers expanded the meaning of the human interest story to report what had previously been regarded as private — the gossip and scandal about individuals — and discovered a rich source of news in crime and everyday tragedy. They began to pay as much attention to personalities as to local or national events.

While Joseph Pulitzer did not originate sensationalism, he played a crucial role in the history of American journalism simply by living at a time when social and economic changes enabled sensationalism to flourish.

Pulitzer used frivolous pictures, poetry, short stories, and the like, to make the newspaper a medium to entertain as well as inform. Pulitzer borrowed ideas of sensationalism that were not his own and brought them up to date to fit a modern America of cities and factories.

Circulation is King

When Pulitzer set up shop in New York, he wanted to achieve the greatest circulation in America’s history. He needed a large circulation in order to have a podium from which his liberal principles could be heard. To obtain it, he had to win the confidence, as well as excite the interest, of the masses of people.

Pulitzer took delight in alliteration. “Fact, Fuss, Fun and Philosophy for the Fair Sex”; “Mangled by Mongrels”; and “Terrible Time in Troy”; were typical of blazing headlines that crossed the front of his papers.

To attract more attention and strike the reader’s eye, Pulitzer sometimes resorted to the dubious practice of pumping minor items out of proportion. A typical technique was to ask a question in the headline, usually one the paper could not answer.

In one instance, two brothers argued in a boarding house, and one shot the other while the grief-stricken mother clasped the dead son’s body to her breast. Rather than use such obvious headlines as “Youth Kills Brother” or “A Tale of Cain and Abel,” Pulitzer seized the reader’s attention with “Blood on Mother’s Lips.”

While patricians might decry such journalism as tasteless, Pulitzer pointed to a steadily rising circulation to prove its effectiveness.

Creating the News

Pulitzer reputedly had a “nose for news,” recognizing the appropriate stories when they appeared, and, when they did not appear, creating them. Such a knack meant making fine judgments about stories that had no place in a mass circulation journal, and not least important, knowing how to present and embellish the right stories so that their potential was not lost on the reader.

The large number of immigrants in New York who had trouble reading English came to rely on Hearst’s paper, The World, for headlines. Accommodating the uncertain literacy of it’s readers, the paper had abundant pictures and bold headlines splashed across each page. Reporters were urged to use simple language and uncomplicated sentence structure.

Addressing the class structure in America wherein immigrants failed to acquire sophistication and polish, the editors concentrated on stories about sex, violence, crime, tragedy, and farce.

The World also resurrected buried items, venturing far from New York City to find desired material. Pulitzer often played up material ignored by other papers to make his front page startling and eye-catching. Pulitzer played up one incident, a squabble between two cab drivers, for three days running, with headlines such as “Will There be a Duel?” The argument long over, the public was kept on the hook, ostensibly so that Pulitzer could sell newspapers.

Constant Conjuring

When the newspaper ran short of news items for sensational treatment, it filled the void by conjuring up equivalent feature material, usually for the Sunday editions. A sampling of features included:

* Recent examples of human sacrifice among fanatical religious sects in the U.S.

* A long report on weapons used to commit murder, including a nail, a coffin lid, a red-hot horseshoe, an umbrella, a match box, a window brush, and a tea kettle.

* A description of two cutthroats from Vienna, Austria, who specialized in courting lonely women and then murdering them.

* A thrilling narrative of cannibalism at sea, in which shipwrecked soldiers cut the jugular vein of the weakest member, their cabin boy, and lived off his flesh.

Publicizing Gore

The ability to discover offbeat ways of publicizing gore was particularly important during the 1880s, when Pulitzer’s paper grew in size.  After deciding what stories should go into the paper, the challenge became presenting them in an effective way. The top-flight journalist who had lost his capacity for shock needed to be wary.

“Pulitzer discovered that when the public became interested in a murder, its curiosity and appetite for detail were almost insatiable. Hence, provocative, gruesome, coy, but never dull, headlines embellished paper after paper.”

 

Personally,  I find it remarkable and horrific that the Pulitzer Prize, an award representing the highest aspirations and achievements in journalism, is named for Mr. Joseph Pulitzer.  What a world.

– – – – –

 

 

We'd love to hear your thoughts about this article. Please take a minute to share them in the comment section by clicking here. Or carry the conversation over on your favorite social network by clicking one of the share buttons below.


Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
 
 
 

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.



Elections

UPDATE: AZ GOP Chair Kelli Ward Explains What is Happening in Arizona

The most concise explanation yet!

Published

on

Take six minutes and twenty-five seconds for this update on what is happening in the election in Arizona. Video below.

Donate at AZGOP.com

Follow AZ GOP Chair Kelli Ward on Twitter: @KelliWardAZ

Trending on PolitiCrossing.com: Three Things Republicans MUST Do Now

Continue Reading

Elections

Three Things Republicans MUST Do Now

The Republicans have a very important job to do!

Published

on

Now that the Republicans have taken the House, they have a few VERY important jobs to do. In this short five minute video, Chris Widener, Founder of PolitiCrossing, makes the case that there are three things the Republicans must do to be successful through 2024 and take back the Senate and the White House as well.

1. Investigate
2. Defund
3. Cast a Positive Vision for America

Continue Reading

 

Our Newsletter

Become a Politicrossing insider: Sign up for our free email newsletter, and we'll make sure to keep you in the loop.

Sites We Like

Our Newsletter

Become a PolitiCrossing insider: Sign up for our free email newsletter, and we'll make sure to keep you in the loop.

Trending