Toward the end of the 19th century, almost singlehandedly, Joseph Pulitzer helped invent the modern newspaper. The future of this staple of world life is now imperiled, under the most serious attack by the internet and blogs, rising costs, union problems, indifferent readership and a belligerent President. Few films could be as timely in confronting the storied history and questionable future of that once great institution that, each day, provided information and titillation, insights and outrages to its billions of readers worldwide.
By all accounts, Joseph Pulitzer was one of the most difficult, compelling and innovative figures of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Yet somehow Pulitzer remains less well known than his high-profile newspaper rival, William Randolph Hearst, who entered the New York newspaper world over a decade after Pulitzer transformed a moribund newspaper into the ambitiously titled, mass circulation publication, The World. Of course Pulitzer has no enduring monument like Orson Welles’ 1941 Citizen Kane— Welles’ protagonist is consciously modeled on Hearst, so much so that William Randolph prohibited any mention of the film in his publications. But it was Pulitzer, not Hearst, who “invented” the modern newspaper. Pulitzer changed the look and content of the dailies, first as publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, then, even more successfully, with The World, which he purchased from the financier Jay Gould in 1883. In his New York publication Pulitzer innovated at a breathless pace, introducing illustrations, a women’s page, fashion and etiquette columns, a sports page, short fiction, adding a section for labor news as well as columns for controversial “personals,” ads not unlike the come-ons in the back of the NY Review of Books. He also created a plethora of what were referred to as “use” features, including maps, instructions about how to register to vote, a variety of household and practical tips, including recipes. His intention was to make the newspaper an indispensable part of New Yorkers’ daily lives. To do so, Pulitzer re-designed the stodgy traditional front page, banishing the solid columns of print and removing the obituaries from that prized space while turning Page One into a visual feast. He believed in educating people, as he wrote, through the eye as well as through the mind.
We are looking forward to the theatrical release of our documentary, Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People, this coming weekend, and we hope you will be able to join us for one of the screenings. Opening Friday, March 1st at the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street. This film by director Oren Rudavsky explores how Joseph Pulitzer, once a penniless young Jewish immigrant from Hungary, came to challenge a popular president and fight for freedom of the press as essential to our democracy. Adam Driver is the narrator, and Liev Schreiber is the voice of Pulitzer. Together, they bring to life the virtually unknown American genius who revolutionized journalism over one hundred years ago.
In this event, Oren Rudavsky and Robert Seidman will talk about the conception of the film, the process of filming and what we believe is the increasing timeliness of “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People.”
Oren Rudavsky is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and several National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts grants. Rudavsky produced the NEH funded American Masters documentary: Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People, broadcast date April, 2019. The film was chosen to premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival and at the Hot Springs Documentary Festival. He produced Witness Theater a film chronicling a Selfhelp organized workshop between holocaust survivors and high-school students which will premiere in 2019. His films Colliding Dreams co-directed with Joseph Dorman, and The Ruins of Lifta co-directed with Menachem Daum, were released theatrically in 2016. Colliding Dreams was broadcast on PBS in May 2018.
His film A Life Apart: Hasidism in America was broadcast on PBS and his ITVS funded film Hiding and Seeking was nominated for an Independent Spirit award and was chosen for the PBS POV series. Both were co-directed with Menachem Daum. Rudavsky was the producer of media for the small and large screen permanent installations at the Russian Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow which opened in 2013. In 2011, Rudavsky produced a series of profile documentaries for Bloomberg television called Risk Takers. These included profiles of Michael Burry and Michelle Rhee. In 2009 Rudavsky was Producer/Writer of the two part series Time for School 3, a twelve-year longitudinal study examining the education of seven children in the developing world for the PBS series Wide Angle. In 2006, Oren completed The Treatment, his fiction feature as Producer/Writer/Director, 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 by Rudavsky includes And Baby Makes Two, funded by ITVS and presented on PBS Independent Lens (co-directed with Judy Katz), Spark Among the Ashes, At the Crossroads, Theater of the Palms, Dreams So Real and A Film About My Home. He was director of photography on most of his films as well as on the PBS POV film Twitch and Shout.
Rudavsky’s work includes writing and producing segments for the ABC national series PrimeTime Live, the PBS series Media Matters, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and other national programming. He has also worked as a post-production supervisor on the film unit of Saturday Night Live and the syndicated series Tales From the Darkside in the 1980’s.
Robert J. Seidman is a novelist, Emmy-winning screenwriter and literary critic. His latest novel, Moments Captured was published by The Overlook Press in 2012 and in England by Duckworth Press in 2014. The work is based loosely on the work and life of the pioneering 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Seidman’s One Smart Indian, a novel about a Northern Cheyenne set in mid-nineteenth century America, was published by the Overlook Press in 1980. The book has never been out of print.
Seidman’s screenwriting credits include the Emmy-nominated A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, a 90-minute documentary (directed by Oren Rudavsky). He has written PBS documentary films about Wallace Stevens, Margaret Mead, and Samuel Beckett. He also wrote several films about art, including In Our Time, the final program of the nine-part series ambitiously titled Art of the Western World. Seidman was co-writer of Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life. This film won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Documentary, a George Foster Peabody Award, and the Emmy for Best Documentary, 2007.
He is currently finishing a feature documentary film about Joseph Pulitzer, one of the America’s most dynamic and innovative newspaper publishers. The film is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and “American Masters,” WNET-Channel 13.
With Don Gifford, Robert Seidman is co-author of Ulysses Annotated: An Annotation of James Joyce's, Ulysses, University of California Press, 1988.