‘Dispatch’ Bids Sad Farewell to Pulitzer Name As Sale Nears

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(AP) Employees of Pulitzer Inc.’s flagship newspaper gathered Wednesday for an emotional farewell to one of journalism’s most enduring names.

The St. Louis-based company is being purchased by Lee Enterprises Inc. of Davenport, Iowa. Shareholders for both publishers are gathering in New York Friday for the vote to make the $1.46 billion deal official. Boards of both companies have unanimously endorsed it.

“Pulitzer is and always will be the most familiar and greatest name in journalism,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch president and publisher Terry Egger told several hundred employees who crowded into the newspaper’s front lobby before moving to the street for a group photo. “That’s something no one can ever take away from any of us.”

Hungarian immigrant Joseph Pulitzer bought the St. Louis Post in 1869 and merged it with the St. Louis Dispatch in 1878. He later bought the New York World. Pulitzer died in 1911, leaving Columbia University $2 million in his will. The money founded the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1912 and funded the Pulitzer Prize, first awarded in 1917.

The Post-Dispatch has earned 17 of those Pulitzers.

Post-Dispatch editor Ellen Soeteber noted that through that long history, the Post-Dispatch has had just six editors and five publishers.

“Our challenge is to live up to the Pulitzer name and everything it stands for each and every day,” Soeteber said.

Pulitzer’s holdings also include the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, Ariz., a dozen other U.S. dailies, more than 100 weekly newspapers, shoppers, and niche publications, including the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. Lee has been in existence 114 years and operates 44 dailies in 19 states. The Post-Dispatch will become its largest newspaper, with circulation of 286,000 daily and 450,000 on Sunday.

Post-Dispatch feature writer Lorraine Kee has worked at the newspaper 16 years.

“It’s sad,” she said. “This is the first time it’s hit me. You feel like you’re part of something special, and that won’t change.”

Egger recalled the night 10 years ago he was preparing for his job interview in St. Louis. As he nervously flipped channels on the TV he came across a biography of Joseph Pulitzer.

Egger cited Pulitzer’s own words — displayed on a wall of the lobby of the Post-Dispatch office, as well as on the newspaper’s masthead — which begins, “I know that my retirement will make no difference in its cardinal principles …”

“Joseph Pulitzer knew it wasn’t about him and it wasn’t about the name,” Egger said. “The people who put out the newspaper every day are the ones who carry forth the legacy.”

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