By Idris Katib
To commemorate the World Press Freedom Day 2022, the United States Consulate General, in partnership with the Media Career Development Network, recently organized a month-long programme to celebrate investigative journalists and press freedom worldwide.
Yours truly was one of the over 50 journalists who converged on the American Corner of the Consulate in Lagos.
As part of the side attractions, the programme featured the screening of the documentary “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People.”
A Review of the Documentary
Majority of the happenings in the over one-and-a-half-hour documentary took place in New York City, although some neighboring states in the United States were briefly mentioned. One can see the activities of newspapering (with its large readership), politics, governance, and voices of the people. The hustling and bustling of the populous city and environmental pollution are vividly captured.
Born in 1847, Joseph Pulitzer was a Hungarian immigrant in the United States. He enlisted as a soldier to participate in the American civil war.
He would later become a journalist, working for different newspapers and later, a publisher, philanthropist, and politician.
The documentary is an expository narrative in that it captures the stage at which technology was in the production of Pulitzer’s newspapers. It was the era of rigorous newspaper production; the use of typewriters and the Offset Press, cutting and pasting of newspaper headlines as well as manual page-planning.
Although funding his newspapers was a great challenge, Joseph stood for and was on the side of the people. Apart from covering politics, his newspaper “The World” reported the filthy nature of the environment, people’s welfare, sports, dressing, and styles which later attracted him to many advertisements to sustain production and overhead costs. He wrote about the etiquette of dressing, and lifestyles and drew the government’s attention to corruption and the filthy nature of New York.
By the mid-1890s, the newspaper’s circulation per edition was upwards of 400,000 as supplies were extended to the neighboring states and cities.
In 1898, the “war” between Hearst Newspaper owned by William Randolph, another leading journalist, and The World ( Joseph’s morning and evening papers) peaked Joseph’s journalism career as he found more creative ways to retain and broaden readership. Hence, the introduction of weekend cartoons on yellow pages led to the coinage of the phrase “yellow journalism”.
Despite Joseph’s love for sensationalism, he did not hide his hate for fake news. He was quite factual in his reporting.
He believed in the doctrine of journalism that ” the people should be kept informed accurately” and should not be misled for parochial tendencies.
With the introduction of sensations, comical cartoons, and investigative reporting, his newspapers became sources of information, education, and entertainment to readers.
One factor that greatly contributed to the success of Joseph’s journalism Odyssey was that he was the publisher, the editor and reporter combined, although supported by other members of staff whom he engaged. Even though he was using his newspapers to set an agenda for the Senate, he was able to separate being a politician from being a journalist. His active involvement in the policy, house styles, and editorial contents of his paper gave him a pedestal to pursue his causes to laudable conclusions.
The documentary informed that when his newspaper was dragged to court by the government, he was consistently able to pursue the case to the highest court where the case was adjudged in favour of his publication “for the public good”.
Life and times of a man who sacrificed all he had for the good of the people.
Being an immigrant should not limit one’s potential and push for success. Joseph never allowed being a foreigner to affect his psyche. He put his eyes on the ball to achieve his great convictions.
Knowledge of a subject or profession is not enough. Creativity retains leaders in market competition. Through his professional creativity, up until the twilight of his life, Joseph Pulitzer was a millionaire with a net worth of over $30 million.
Even with challenges of eye problems and depression in his later years which did not allow him to continue the editorship of his papers, he still passionately controlled the contents and professionalism as he would ask that the planned stories be read to his hearing before each edition was put to bed.
The greatest achievement of hu(man) is to immortalise their name after they must have passed on. Joseph Pulitzer’s endowment of Columbia University School of Journalism remains till date a milestone in celebrating World Press Freedom Day.
Katib, a Journalism teacher with Crescent University, Abeokuta can be reached via email@example.com/ +2348096629914