tv A Life in Politics Print and Power CSPAN April 24, 2016 1:00pm-1:21pm EDT
on c-span twos book tv. >> you are watching the tv on c-span 2, television for serious readers took the 2016 pulitzer prize winners were announced this past week or two of the winners were both featured recently on book tv. before we show you those programs, in 2013, book tv sat down with james mcgrath morris to discuss his biography of joseph pulitzer, the namesake of the award. the book: "pulitzer: a life in politics, print and power". guest: i'm james mcgrath morris and we are here today in the palace press and behind me stands early printing presses and this seems like a perfect place to talk about the man who
revolutionized american history. whenever started working on the book people would react with recognition when i said i was writing about joseph pulitzer, but it was clear from their expression they knew the name and nothing about his life. he shares his fate with our herd novellas the well-known for prize, which he endowed, but not for what he did in his life. few people remember that offered nobel was explosive munitions maker and view people understand the significant world of joseph pulitzer. like some of the giants of the 18th century whose names we remember, kartik-- carnegie, rockefeller all of these people. pulitzer played a role at critical moment in american history, which is the industrial age took the age that made america the way we think of ourselves today. the role he played is he was really the midwife of the birth of the modern mass media. before his time we did not have the kind of media we now swimming everyday. the notion of americans checking their news on their phones are going to cnn or watching
c-span, these are things that were cultivated in that period, so it turns out pulitzer not only played a significant role in the 19th century and lead a fascinating life, but the influence he yielded is still with us today. the reason i think people don't remember pulitzer today as much is because in some ways as a compass when it is so happenstance now. we are so used to what it is. in the 19th century, printing it was the internet. we all go, well i can book a ticket now or have this gadget and every day we exclaim and is so the idea of getting news today quickly and easily are all commonplace things and we don't think it's such a big deal and evaluate it worked in the same way i'm not sure all americans really remember who morgan was. or who rockefeller was or who carnegie was, yet we drive across bridges made with steel, that's a carnegie gift. we use cars powered by oil, that's all world that rockefeller built and we use a financial
system built on morgan and we consume news built on a system that was developed and created by people like pulitzer. pulitzer was born in the 1840s akin to the us as a mercenary soldier to fight the civil war per the north needed soldiers and went to europe and recruited single young men. he did not releasing any action and like many veterans after the war he was unemployed, often afterwords her to reintegrate people into the economy. he ends up in st. louis, where he becomes befriended by a major german-american named carl schuetz who becomes a senator from missouri and is a newspaper publisher. he is doing everything at extraordinary rate, which we don't do anymore, but his parents compare his like-minded immigrants and within five years of his entry to the united states. if that kind of speed of integration that we had a 19th century. he become successful and i am really shortening the story. he has a new form of
journalism. of each of you a comparison or pulitzer is like a modern-day surfer. if you go to a beach and you look out on the water, beyond with the weights are breaking you see many women paddling lazily to with their surfboard and 71 petals with extruder speed and because they perceive that little undulation in the water will be the best way that that they the others don't. they don't see it. what pulitzer seat in the 19th century were tidal waves of social change that he would ride. what were they? people were leaving the farms and come into the cities and working in factories and they were becoming commuters. women made important economic decisions on the farms and were now becoming house wives. paper was made with such strength out of work, not-- it could go through pre-and presses that high-speed and he became possible to print a newspaper of thousands of copies and get in the street. the victorian internet
had been invented, the telegraph, bringing news from washington dc that morning, so what happened in congress reached st. louis by the afternoon. he produced an afternoon paper that he could sell to commuters that was entertaining to read that contained economic information, advertising , it contain the latest news. the papers were actually printed yesterday's news and he did more than that. he discovered an urban life there is this tremendous trauma that he could write up in a nonfiction way, the way dickens was writing tales of the port in london, so the paper was interesting to read. all of these elements combined into a people then called western because st. louis was considered western journalist. so, like a broadway play , they test broadway plays out, well, pulitzer did the same thing. he brightest owned newspaper to new york city and ought the bankrupt new york world and within months was making millions of
dollars. new york being the media center of the country the world at that time. he revolutionized journalism. one set of anecdote that is an analogy for that supports a pulitzer him as i said pulitzer created this newspaper world in new york and he looked down to the lower east side where masses of immigrants were coming in the 1880s and 1890s and when i say massa, millions of people were coming from overseas. new york was the port of entry. the upper class in the upper reaches saw these folks as a dangerous group. they saw them as poor, dirty and all of these kind of things. pulitzer did not see them that way. he saw potential readers, so he admonished his reporters to write about their lives, so the day's paper with a tiny tot falls to his death from tenement building in the upper class tricky with their fingers up and said such sensationalistic prattle. they were missing the
point. to the people in the lower east side, this was their lives being portrayed in print. kid did that to their death. in the summer it was so hot in those tenement buildings this is the most densely populated place in the world and people would go to the roof to breathe at night. children would fall to their death and this was chronicled by a journalist, so by writing about them he was in a sense dignifying their lives. i give this comparison all the time and i asked people, if you were to take me home i bet on your refrigerator there is a clipping of some sort you have, child's graduation, child's account bushman at school or sad dude-- news. those events occurred regardless of they were in print or not so why do we keep these? because writing and print brings dignity and meaning to actions, so the lower east side class of people saw the paper as their friend that to produce this kind of dignity picked the paper also as an
entry to american life for as little as a penny -- on sunday you could get a paper is because a telephone book with easy to understand stories, as literature, we download music now. that is old stuff. then, he printed sheet music to the latest tune inside the papers so you could play the latest music. pulitzer built this important relationship with the poorest people of new york with this paper. in return, two things happen that were really amazing. one of which is the statue of liberty given to the us by the french people, not the french government, the french people and in return we were supposed to raise the money on our own, so the statute was basically on its way over and we had not raised in the money for the pedestal, so pulitzer in a front-page story about the scandal that no one has paid for this and an editorial same bring me your pennies and nickels. i will put your name in the paper and thank you
for it and we will raise the money privately. you have to understand he is a bearing of the 19th century, so trusted by the lower class of new york that kids would come in with pennies, workers would come in with their nickels and say here it is, i trust you will use this. it's like my going to some major corporate leader in saying here's $5 i hope you use it in the right way, so it amplifies is the relationship. the next in the paper, your name would be listed for that contribution, the same paper that had the vanderbilts, asters and morgan's in it there would appear michael oceana sheet name for having given it penny. pedestal was built that way and in time the statue of liberty was put up and a statue pulitzer in the park where the statue is on the island. my last bit of this architectural tour of new york to show you the significance, pulitzer is re-created american journalism. is vital, important and papers are published every hour of the day. if there as-- is an important trial in new
york, reporter would sit in the room, write his story, handed to a copy boy who would go downstairs and pick up an open phone a dictator back to the paper. they would print that hours trial, put it on the streets and little boys would sell it. that was the cnn at the time. it was so important that on election night people would gather by the thousands on park row because there was no radio to tell you who would win and you will look at the front of the newspaper and they would that the resulting chock. pulitzer became as i said the midwife of this whole world of journalism in which people dependent on it, turned to news for entertainment. they would see at dinner, did you read that story in the new york world or maybe the competitor, but people would talk about news. making this money he needed to build a new headquarters, so he went to park row and bought french's hotel. great lesson for young people because you always hear revenge is a dish best served cold.
french's hotel had kicked him out as an indigent unemployed veteran of the civil war in 1865, so he came back, but the hotel, tore down a built the tallest building on the globe and at the top he made a dome shaped building at the top where the editorial offices were and he put gold leaf on the top, so the top floors of this building which overlooked all of new york, tallest building on the globe at this point was where the newsroom was, where pulitzer's offices were. what is so significant is it we made the landscape of new york at this point. think of it in terms of the empire state building in the 20th century with that kind of profound affect. 's just like he remade the landscape of journalism, he remade the landscape of new york with this building and this is a profound moment i think really illustrates it all when those immigrants coming into new york harbor and this is something people forget, when immigrants left of the steps of russia there was no delta flight or virgin
air flight to go home and seem on the next year. you are betting your last dollars that you might be able to get away from the oppression you luck and reestablish her life in this new land. so as you into the harbor with this terrific moment you have your first look at the new land and if the fog is there maybe fog will clear and you'll see the statue of liberty and this immigrants would see that. you go right by the statue of liberty and they wouldn't necessarily know the pedestal had been dealt with the pennies, but then they would turn it on the first look at the new york city skyline, the city that would welcome them, the city where they would learn their english and get their first foot hole on the american economic light and if the sun was bright it would gleam off the gold domed or cannot a monument to congress or banking or many manufacturing or agriculturally, but a minute meant to the american press. and the new york world that will be there,
their ticket to understanding how to get ahead, their ticket to learning english and their ticket to american politics. that's the effect pulitzer had back then. he was a difficult man to live with as a biographer. you a sort of like the howard hughes of the 19th century. at the peak of his power, when he was the publisher of the most powerful publisher of the globe his paper had the power of the "new york times", cnn and the "washington post" and cbs news all combined here it was-- people read the world in the way that people and when i was a child people used to watch the free networks on tv with immense influence. he reaches this pinnacle of power and he began to go blind, so like beethoven who could not hear his own music, pulitzer cannot read his own paper and at the same time he became the set with a number of psychological issues and one of which was sound disturbance, so he built a famous tower of silence him a room in
which you could go in and get refuge from sound. his new york city mansion at a special bedroom, which had separate walls, inch-thick play class to keep the noise out. if you were invited to have lunch with him and you ate your salary in a fashion that was too noisy, you would get a memo the next day save next line you have lunch with mr. pulitzer, no crunch crunch, please. it became obsessive for him and it became obsessively beset with all of these problems, so as the second half of his life he got on his yacht, the world's largest yacht-- correction, morgan was 3 feet bigger, but the engines were put in a special part of the yachts of the sound would not reach him and he basically went back and forth across the world. one of the most daring writers that worked for him, david philip graham , who is later assassinated by one of his readers wrote him a note in which he had the courage it to say to mr. pulitzer, your problems are not the kind to complete geographically.
pulitzer was impossible meant to live with them once his daughter had a minor operation, very commonplace for kids, but evolved a pleading, so the household was in a tizzy. a teenage daughter upstairs and pulitzer stands up at the dining room table and a waiter had written us down and said folks, what about me. i'm suffering here. so, his self-centeredness, his egomania, his social issues makes him absolutely fascinating character and we are able to understand better today, but the thing i love the best about the book was his wife understood better than any of us, she loved him in a way that no one else could love him and as he went blind she took a lock he had with the opinion of his mother and what we would have done today was gone to kinko's and enlarged it, but she had a painter paint a large version-- version before he could lose his eyesight you could still see his mother. later, i per tray that at one point she does have an affair and i think the sense that readers had at that point is, you go girl you're coming he was so impossible and people
say what is joseph pulitzer's legacy and his legacy has two parts were. he left in his will money to creed two things, one of the journalism school of columbia university which is celebrating its centennial now. this is important. it isn't just columbia university. i will admit that missouri has a journalism school, kansas coming what's important about it is that pulitzer came to realize journalism like any profession whether it's a lawyer or dentist , he took his money to create a school by which people could become professionally trained because it is a responsible craft and what i think is so important is that i think a lot of solutions to the modern mass media problem today will come out of this institution where younger people are trying to become journalists and a half to figure out a way like pulitzer figured out a way to make it work, so in a sense the next pulitzer may come out of the school he created. ..
endangered. could be a one-man standing up for democracy. it could be a work trying to bring about peace in a dangerous place like northern ireland. the reason the prizes given as an offense to protect that person because you are not going to go and assassinate somebody who just won the nobel peace prize. it's bringing world attention of
the most significant pulitzer prize is the one for public service and it's often given to newspapers who invariably covered something the community didn't want them to cover. when they cover some pain, the journalists were ostracized. the local towns often pull out their advertisements, which is the economic day of the newspapers take her tremendous risk to write about some thing that could be a scandal, something important, but the community doesn't want to hear about it. when they had the public service, the national recognition in the seventh provides the same kind of protection that the nobel peace prize does. pulitzer was an extraordinarily significant person who's still to this day affects our lives. just like a child may recognize all of a sudden they have a mannerism from their father or mother coming suddenly sam just like my mother and you recognize those roots.
we as a culture need to understand a lot of the habits today come from people who came before us. when you read bullets are you understand the traits they have about consumption, his understanding of news as a form of entertainment. we inherited and i've taken not to build our society. the other thing that's really important about pollitt certainly need to think about it in the seismic changes going on with the media, pulitzer hammered away over and over again at the newspaper business is not just a business, but a public service, that a democracy cannot function without an informed public that somebody has to be at the school board meeting at 2:00 in the morning when they vote on a contract of who's going to build the next school. as the pressure and today, there's no people at those meetings to keep an eye on things. the press likes the darkest of the society. we know about the hardships
whether we want to or not because of the press barely know about corruption tickets fixed because of the price. we know it's on the public agenda and sometimes like the fiscal cliff we hear about over and over again. these are critically important roles in the story is a reminder of that, they guess these are businesses run by the sauce burgers come in "new york times," but they perform this enormously important civic action of an army knife. the question we have to do as a society is that these papers, what will come to replace them. that will be part of that other people take away. >> this year's pulitzer prize went to a author t.j. for his boat, custer's trials to life on the frontier of the new america appeared he was on booktv in march or march coverage of folk