An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery.
Whilst May 5th, Freedom of the Press Day, is still a few weeks away, this week in April is notable for a formidable individual whom strove throughout his life to keep that freedom strong, well-trained and powering forward like a Wild West steam engine thrusting across our vast nation.
Publisher Joseph Pulitzer was born April 10, 1847 in Budapest, Hungary. Emigrating to America toward the end of the Civil War, he fought with Union forces for a short period; yet, thankfully for us, battlefield horrors soon took a backseat to what would become a lifetime of inky fingers. His career would be somewhat similar, at least in part, to that of John Peter Zenger, the German immigrant from New York whom fought to keep journalism honest and fair. Just as Zenger would compete arduously with fellow New York newspaperman William Bradford in the mid-18thC., Pulitzer would compete fiercely with fellow New York newspaperman William Randolph Hearst in the mid-19thC. Like Macy’s v. Gimbel’s at Christmastime, Pulitzer and Hearst would duke it out at the printing press, outdoing each other, bringing about early forms of “new journalism”: unconventional, non-traditional reporting styles, oft printed in magazines as opposed to newspapers, and similar to Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote and Matt Taibbi.
Pulitzer published the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and New York World, served as a NY State Representative and is best known for the Pulitzer Prize. Awarded for excellence in journalism, reporting (including online reporting today), photography, poetry, literature and history amongst other categories, the Pulitzer is administered by Columbia University, funded originally by an initial $2million legacy he left the school upon his death in 1911. In 1912, he posthumously founded the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In 1917, the first Pulitzers were awarded for Editorial Writing (New York Tribune for the first anniversary of the Lusitania sinking), Reporting (Herbert Bayard Swope of New York World), History (With Americans of Past and Present Days by His Excellency J.J. Jusserand) and Biography (Julia Ward Howe by Laura E. Richards and Maude Howe Elliott, assisted by Florence Howe Hall: Houghton Publishing).
April 10-13, in honour of Mr. Pulitzer, my pally Jennifer Susannah Devore gives you, free via Amazon: Savannah of Williamsburg: Ben Franklin, Freedom & Freedom of the Press, Book III in my Savannah of Williamsburg historical-fiction series. (Read the official Colonial Williamsburg press release here.)
Set in Philadelphia, New York and Colonial Williamsburg, the third in the series finds a young, Swedish printer’s apprentice named Linus amidst one of the greatest trials in human history: the John Peter Zenger Trial. Add one great Scot of an attorney named Andrew Hamilton, a nasty and arrogant New York/New Jersey Royal Governor William Cosby, a secret weapon, a new twist on onus probandi and one stunning, shocking verdict of “Not Guilty” and you’ve got the trial that changed the course of American journalism and conferred upon us the all too important Freedom of the Press.
The thousands of readers and scholars who helped Savannah of Williamsburg: Ben Franklin, Freedom & Freedom of the Press peak at #1 this winter in Amazon’s Law Fiction/Legal Perspectives genre can’t be wrong. Let Linus, Benjamin Franklin, my Squirrel Girl and John Peter Zenger share with you one of the cornerstones of our great democracy, a free press Joseph Pulitzer cherished. If I may be so bold, I think he would would have liked this book very much.
On a related note, Lilly Pulitzer, fashion designer and notable barefoot, zeitgeist, vogue icon of the 1960s and ’70s passed away on April 7, 2013. She was the wife of Pete Pulitzer, grandson to Joseph Pulitzer. I think she would have liked Miss Savannah Squirrel’s style.
Read on, keep up, write oft and speak out, people!