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A Newspaperman's Life

by Daniel W. Pfaff

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0-271-00748-6

 Solid biography of the longtime editor-publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by Pfaff (Journalism/Penn State). Joseph Pulitzer, Sr., was a larger-than-life figure, a Hungarian Jew plagued by diabetes, ill-health, and violent mood- swings who once shot a fellow-legislator for calling him a liar. (Joseph II later took a swing at William Randolph Hearst for calling his father a pimp.) Pulitzer, Sr., continued to run his publishing empire after going blind, all the while harassing his three sons unceasingly. His middle son and namesake (1885-1955) grew into a big, hearty, sports-loving, happy-go-lucky adolescent who was thrown out of prep school, flunked out of Harvard, made friends wherever he went, and became quintessentially American while infuriating Father by his enjoyment of life. As much a book about publishing greats, this is a father-son black comedy about a pair of high-stakes edge-players, both of them awesomely industrious. The father demanded an endless apprenticeship of his sons that involved reporting in detail on daily activities and being moved about the world like chessmen, but Joseph II never feared him, crossing him from time to time (e.g., by suggesting that lucrative patent-medicine ads be dropped from his father's New York World). Joseph II stuck it out, and after his father's death in 1911 created a great ``crusading, liberal, usually Democratic'' newspaper that sent reporters far afield. ``Many a politician and wealthy St. Louis businessman detested the Post-Dispatch,'' says Pfaff, and with reason--it pioneered investigative journalism on issues including the Teapot Dome scandal, the impeachment of corrupt judges, and even an illegal railroad-franchise scheme involving Joseph II's uncle. By the time of his death in 1955, Joseph Pulitzer II was virtually blind himself, working as hard as his father ever had. The vigor and creativity of the Pulitzers have never been in question, but who they were as people comes through richly here. (Sixty-nine photographs--not seen.)