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Media & Society Lecture focuses on press baron Joseph Pulitzer

January 16th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

Life and influence of famed news baron is subject of JCOM Lecture

LOGAN—Nineteenth-century newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer will be the focus of a lecture next week by the author of an acclaimed new biography of one of the most famous names in American press history.

James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power, will deliver the first Morris Media & Society Lecture of 2011 at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, in Eccles Science Learning Center room 046. The lecture, sponsored by the USU Journalism & Communication Department, is free and the public is invited.

Morris spent five years researching and writing the first biography of Pulitzer, whose newspaper wars with William Randolph Hearst helped mold both the American press and American politics at the end of the 19th century.

Like Alfred Nobel, Pulitzer is better known today for the prize that bears his name than for his contribution to history. Yet, in nineteenth-century industrial America, while Carnegie provided the steel, Rockefeller the oil, Morgan the money, and Vanderbilt the railroads, Pulitzer ushered in the modern mass media.

Morris (no relation to the family that endows the lecture series) is a former journalist who also worked in book publishing and the magazine business. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Observer, The Baltimore Sun, Wilson Quarterly and other publications. He is editor of the monthly Biographer’s Craft and author of two previous books.

His book has been applauded as “one of the ten best biographies 2010” by Booklist, and The New York Times Book Review says, “This well-researched, exhaustive biography reads like a novel, with fleshed-out characters…. It is the story of a man, but also of a time.”

Pulitzer, whose name has become the yardstick for journalistic excellence through the annual Pulitzer Prizes, was a Jewish Hungarian immigrant who arrived in America penniless in 1864. He founded the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and later moved to New York, where, as owner and publisher of the New York World, Pulitzer recognized the vast social changes of the industrial revolution.

Harnessing the converging elements of entertainment, technology, business, and demographic change, Pulitzer transformed the role of the newspaper, making it an essential feature of urban life. Fighting for freedom of the press and battling both political (Teddy Roosevelt tried to send him to prison) and newspaper foes, Pulitzer’s efforts truly transformed the role of newspapers in American politics and life.

“Pulitzer is one of the towering figures in American journalism who helped define the press in a time of rapid change,” said JCOM department head Ted Pease. “It is intriguing to think what lessons we can take from him now as the mass media again are changing so radically.”

As today’s media world anticipates changes ahead in the information age, Pulitzer is a timely and important work that offers valuable insights into the development of modern mass media and the ever-changing landscape of American journalism.

The event is part of the Department of Journalism & Communication’s Morris Media & Society Lecture Series, which is dedicated to bringing media experts to campus to prompt discussion of issues in the mass media and in society.

Upcoming in the 2011 Morris Media & Society Lecture Series:

Feb. 17: Mandalit del Barco, National Public Radio’s correspondent on the West Coast whose work focuses on breaking news from natural disasters (Haiti’s earthquake) to social trends (immigration) and culture (hip-hop) for Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Topic and time to be announced.

March 17 (tentative): Nancy Conway, editor, The Salt Lake Tribune, on the “myth of the dying newspaper.” Details to come.

April: RonNell Anderson Jones, USU alumna, BYU law professor and former clerk for Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, on legal issues for a free press in a changing media landscape. Details to come.

James McGrath Morris is available for press interviews. For more information, contact the USU Department of Journalism & Communication at 435-797-3293, or email Ted Pease at ted.pease@usu.edu.

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