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Planning a School of Journalism -- The Basic Concept in 1904 (Archival)

By Joseph Pulitzer


Joseph Pulitzer summarized his vision for a great school of journalism in the May 1904 issue of The North American Review, below.


Planning a School of Journalism -- The Basic Concept in 1904

By Joseph Pulitzer


A review of Criticisms and Objections -- Reflections Upon the Power, the Progress and the Prejudices of the Press -- Why Specialized Concentration and Education at College Would Improve The Character and Work of Journalists and So Promote the Welfare of the Republic.


"The man who writes, the man who month in and month out, week in and week out, day in and day out, furnishes the material which is to shape the thoughts of our people, is essentially the man who more than any other determines the character of the people and the kind of government this people shall possess."

- President Roosevelt, April 7, 1904.


The editor of the NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW has asked me to reply to an article recently printed in its pages criticising the College of Journalism which it has been my pleasure to found and permanently to endow in Columbia University. In complying with his request I have enlarged the scope of the reply to include all other criticisms and misgivings, many honest, some shallow, some based on misunderstanding, but the most representing only prejudice and ignorance. If my comment upon these criticisms shall seem to be diffuse and perhaps repetitious, my apology is that -- alas! -- I am compelled to write by voice, not by pen, and to revise the proofs by ear, not by eye -- a somewhat difficult task.

Some of my critics have called my scheme "visionary." If it be so I can at least plead that it is a vision I have cherished long, thought upon deeply and followed persistently. Twelve years ago I submitted the idea to President Low of Columbia, when it was declined. I have ever since continued to perfect and organize the scheme in my mind, until it is now accepted. In examining the criticisms and misgivings I have endeavored to do so without prejudice, anxious only to find the truth. I admit that the difficulties are many, but after weighing them all impartially I am more firmly convinced than ever of the ultimate success of the idea. Before the century closes schools of journalism will be generally accepted as a feature of specialized higher education, like schools of law or of medicine.

And now for our critics and objectors:


They object, the critics and cavaliers, that a "newspaper man" must depend solely upon natural aptitude, or, in the common phrase, that he must be "born, not made."

Perhaps the critics can name some great editor, born full-winged like Mercury, the messenger of the gods? I know of none. The only position that occurs to me which a man in our Republic can successfully fill by the simple fact of his birth is that of an idiot. Is there any other position for which a man does not demand and receive training -- training at home, training in schools and colleges, training by master craftsmen, or training through bitter experience -- through the burns that make the child dread the fire, through blunders costly to the aspirant?

This last is the process by which the profession of journalism at present obtains its recruits. It works by natural selection and the survival of the fittest, and its failures are strewn along the wayside.


To read the rest of Pulitzer's essay, click here. (PDF)

Posted by: FriendFriend April 2012

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