Joseph Pulitzer II & Post-Dispatch

Daniel W. Pfaff, Author Pennsylvania State University Press $71.95 (455p) ISBN 978-0-271-00748-9
As a young man, Joseph Pulitzer II (1885-1955) had to contend with an almost impossibly difficult father. Pulitzer Sr. was nearly blind, hypersensitive to noise, quixotic, irascible and as used to having his own way as an absolutist monarch. Also the founder of a journalistic dynasty, he made the World the most respected paper in New York City and tended to regard the St. Louis, Mo., Post-Dispatch as a sort of stepchild. But his son and namesake did not admire the World , preferring to stay in the Midwest; and young Pulitzer's hunch that he held a better future in Middle America began to seem prescient when the World folded in 1931 and the St. Louis paper continued to grow and became increasingly profitable. Pulitzer II steered a careful course between isolationism and interventionism in the pre-World War II era, and managed to be both anti-Communist and anti-Joe McCarthy in the early '50s. His light hand on the reins made the paper the very model of enlightened American liberalism. Additionally, he could spot a trend brilliantly: seeing his first flickering TV show through failing eyes in 1947, he concluded, ``That's the end of radio.'' Penn State journalism professor Pfaff has written an outstanding biography, one that may set students of journalistic history to wondering whether Pulitzer II was not a better newsman than his revered father. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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