Everyone knows about the Pulitzer Prizes, America’s most distinguished honor for journalists and other writers. But what do we know about their namesake, Joseph Pulitzer?
Narrated by Adam Driver and featuring the voice of Liev Schreiber as Pulitzer, this documentary includes reenactments of the journalist’s life and interviews with journalists and historians who give voice to Pulitzer’s legacy. The film recounts his attacks on corruption; his defense of the freedom of the press; and his tireless fight against “fake news.”
The son of Hungarian Jews, Pulitzer grew up in Budapest where he was educated in private schools and by tutors. As a young man, Pulitzer wanted to be a soldier. Unable to enlist in the Austrian Army, the French Foreign Legion or the British Army because of his weak eyesight and frail health, he found a position in the U.S. Union Army.
His influence on a national level began when he became owner of the New York World. Pulitzer famously defended the freedom of the press and continued exposing corruption, despite his indictment for libel against the president and J.P. Morgan. When the case was thrown out, Pulitzer was applauded for a crucial victory for freedom of the press.
Virtually blind, Pulitzer’s last years were aboard his yacht. He continued control of his newspapers until his death in 1911. The Columbia School of Journalism began awarding the Pulitzer Prizes six years later under the terms of his will. The film brings us up to the present day with quotes from Pulitzer about the need for vigilance in defending freedom of the press.
Bruce Kahn is a retired technical editor, and worked for IBM for more than 30 years. He and his wife Pam live in Brookhaven.