Today, as newspapers are shuttered and reporters panhandle for work, it's worth remembering Joseph Pulitzer, whose taste for sensationalism and sense of public service midwifed American journalism into the modern era.
In May 1883, after attending a funeral in Vermont, New York World reporter James B. Townsend returned to Park Row, the stretch of buildings across from New York City Hall that served as America’s Fleet Street. There, the Herald, the Tribune, and the Sun, along with less known papers such as the Times and the World, plied their trade within earshot of one another. With the exception of the Sun—a vanguard of the penny press that covered urban tales and partisan politics—the papers produced a dignified and subdued tally of the latest goings-on in American politics, foreign capitals, finance, and polite society that was consumed by those with the economic wherewithal to spend as much as a nickel.
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James McGrath Morris is the author of Pulitzer: A LIfe in Politics, Print, and Power (2010). He edits the monthly newsletter Biographer's Craft.more from this author >>