History of Newspapers: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Part 2

About the history of the United States newspaper The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, information about the editor Joseph Pulitzer and some of their scoops.


Pulitzer ruled the Post-Dispatch from New York. He was known for his patriarchal largesse. His newsboys, for instance, got a big free Christmas dinner each year and bonuses like pocketknives and gold watches. He was also crotchety, tyrannical, and eccentric, often alienating his editors. John Dillon, his Post-Dispatch publisher in the early 1880s, once wrote to him: "You have a right to ask why I have sat here like a dummy . . . and blindly followed your orders. . . . In all cases in which my judgment has dissented from yours, you have been so invariably right and I so invariably wrong that you have relieved me of the necessity of thinking for myself. . . . I can say with truth that I have done for you what I have never done for anyone else in my life, in surrendering my judgment to yours without question."

Pulitzer died in 1911, and his son took over the paper. He, too, became intimately involved with it, sending memos to editors, criticizing, even writing and editing. However, he allowed his staff complete intellectual freedom, and never asked a reporter to write something that was against his personal beliefs. In 1948, the whole editorial staff save one refused to comment on the candidacy of Thomas E. Dewey, who was supported by the paper.

The Post-Dispatch has always made an attempt to present both sides of an issue. During the Vietnam War, for instance, it carried a column by Max Freedman, in which Freedman criticized Martin Luther King, Jr., for some remarks on the war, saying that King was in danger of "becoming the Bertrand Russell of the U.S. . . . close to putting off greatness and becoming a bore, an intruder where he has no business, and a busybody causing great mischief." On the following day, an editorial answered Freedman, calling him "petulant" and saying his column was "among the sillier comments of the season." It further said, "Issues of war and peace in Vietnam are most definitely everybody's business, not a private preserve of self-acknowledged 'authorities,' and Dr. King's contribution is more than ordinarily welcome."

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