CBS Films brings Pulitzer’s journalism to life

Besides being a journalist, Joseph Pulitzer was known for his contribution to the Statue of Liberty.

“The Statue of Liberty wouldn’t have happened without promoting to get private donations, and Pulitzer was really behind that,” said Ken Greenberg, past president of Congregation Beth Shalom.

The synagogue hosted the latest installment of the CBS Film Series with the documentary “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People.” It showcased Pulitzer’s life as a Jewish Hungarian immigrant who briefly served in the American Civil War and worked small jobs before becoming a journalist at the Westlicht Post.

Before long, Pulitzer became the owner of The New York World newspaper. Stories focused on the health and economic conditions of New York City’s poor.The paper was also expanded to include various sections for readers, focused on fashion, crime, sports and the stock market. Through the paper, he was able to raise enough money for the pedestal where the Statue of Liberty would stand.

A new resident to Santa Clarita, David Beckman found the film to be “electrifying” and praised how the documentary was shot and edited to animate headlines from Pulitzer’s time.

“You literally couldn’t watch the sequence about the gift of the Statue of Liberty without thinking about current events,” Beckman said. “It would be impossible not to, whatever your opinions are. It just puts all of it right out there to consider and just see how we’re living in history right now.”

Actors Liev Schreiber, Tim Blake Nelson, Rachel Brosnahan and Sebastian Stan provided their voices for Pulitzer and other historical figures, with actor Adam Driver as narrator. The documentary re-enacted several sensationalized and tumultuous moments throughout Pulitzer’s life, from his feud with newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst to his final legal fight with President Theodore Roosevelt over a corruption scandal which involved the Panama Canal.

“Joseph Pulitzer was a relentless journalist known for making enemies,” Driver said early in the film.

Roosevelt accused Pulitzer of “criminal libel.” The succeeding case went to the Supreme Court, which vindicated Pulitzer. Pulitzer would die later that year, in 1911.

As it concluded, the documentary touched on how Pulitzer’s legacy would affect the news media for decades to come. The film ended with various clips of journalists over the past century, including Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Glenn Greenwald.

“When they talked in the movie about having a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper, I don’t drink coffee but I do sit with the newspaper and I start my day everyday,” said visitor Jody Liss-Monteleone. “I can’t imagine not reading a newspaper everyday.”

To watch “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People,” visit pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/joseph-pulitzer-voice-of-the-people-full-film/11337/?button=fullepisode.

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