Joseph Pulitzer: The Voice of the People

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Filmmaker: Oren Rudavsky
Runtime: 84 mins

Synopsis: Joseph Pulitzer’s New York newspaper, The World, would transform American media and make him wealthy, admired and feared. Throughout his four decades as a reporter and publisher, he created a powerful artistic vehicle that spoke to an unprecedented number of readers. Towards the end of his life, both sickly and blind, Pulitzer’s commitment to fearless reporting would tested by the most powerful person in American life. On December 15th, 1908, President Teddy Roosevelt delivered a scathing indictment of Pulitzer to Congress – accusing the publisher of libel – for claiming that the President’s ­greatest achievement, the Panama Canal—amounted to a colonialist overreach built on a $40 million cover-up. Roosevelt threatened Pulitzer with imprisonment. The president proclaimed: “it is high national duty to bring to justice this vilifier of the American people.”

Pulitzer is an American icon who spoke of “fake news” over one hundred years ago. He fought the dangers that the suppression of news had for a democracy long before our present threats to press freedom. While he is remembered for the prizes that bear his name, his own heroic battles in the face of grave illness and Presidential ire have been forgotten as has the artistry and game changing originality he brought to newspapers. How did Joseph Pulitzer, once a penniless young Jewish immigrant from Hungary, come to challenge a popular president and fight for freedom of the press as essential to our democracy?

 

About the Filmmaker

Oren Rudavsky is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and several National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts grants. Rudavsky co-wrote and directed the American Masters documentary: Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People. The film was nominated for an Emmy as part of the American Masters series as well as a Critics Choice Award. His film A Life Apart: Hasidism in America was short-listed for the Academy Awards and broadcast on PBS and his film Hiding and Seeking was nominated for an Independent Spirit award and was chosen for the PBS POV series. Oren co-wrote and directed The Treatment, his fiction feature starring Chris Eigeman, Ian Holm and Famke Janssen. The film premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival where it was awarded Best Film, Made in New York. Other work written and directed by Rudavsky includes Colliding Dreams, Witness Theater, Time for School, And Baby Makes Two, Spark Among the Ashes, At the Crossroads, Theater of the Palms, Dreams So Real and A Film About My Home. Oren also worked as a post-production supervisor on the film unit of Saturday Night Live and the syndicated series Tales From the Darkside and Monsters.