AskDefine | Define muckraking

Dictionary Definition

muckraking n : the exposure of scandal (especially about public figures)

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Adjective

  1. One who muckrakes, who seeks to expose corruption (especially a journalist).

Verb

muckraking
  1. present participle of muckrake

Extensive Definition

For other meanings, see Muckraker (disambiguation)
The term muckraker most associated with a group of American investigative reporters, novelists and critics from the late 1800s to early 1900s, who investigated and exposed societal issues such as conditions in slums and prisons, factories, insane asylums (as they were called at the time), sweatshops, mines, child labor and unsanitary conditions in food processing plants. Muckrakers often wrote about impoverished people and took aim at the established institutions of society, sometimes in a sensationalist and tabloid manner. (See History of American newspapers for Muckrakers in the daily press). Muckrakers were often accused of being socialists or communists. In the early 1900s, muckrakers shed light on such issues by writing books and articles for popular magazines and newspapers such as Cosmopolitan, The Independent, and McClure's.
The term muckraker now also applies to contemporary persons who follow in the tradition of that period, and now covers topics such as fraudulent claims by manufacturers of patent medicines, modern-day slavery, child prostitution, child pornography, and drug trafficking.
Although the term muckraking might appear to have a negative ring to it, muckrakers have often served the public interest by uncovering crime, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in both the public and private sectors.
An example of a contemporary muckraker work is Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed (1965) and one of the more well known from the early period is Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, (1906) which, respectively, led to reforms in automotive manufacturing and meat packing in the United States. Some of the most famous of the early muckrakers are Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker.
The rise of muckraking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries corresponded with the advent of Progressivism yet, while temporally correlated, the two are not intrinsically linked.

History of term

President Theodore Roosevelt is credited with originating the term 'muckraker.' During a speech in 1906 he likened the muckrakers to the Man with the Muckrake, a character in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678).
While Roosevelt apparently disliked what he saw as a certain abundance of pessimism of muckraking's practitioners, his speech strongly advocated for the paintings of the muckrakers, as seen in his Muckrake Speech of 1906:
''"There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful."

List of muckrakers and their works

Contemporary muckrakers

Roosevelt Speech Reference Note

Theodore Roosevelt Describes the Muckrakers, 1906
"In Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" you may recall the description of the Man with the Muck-rake, the man who could look no way but downward, with the muck-rake in his hand; who was offered a celestial crown for his muck-rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor.
In "Pilgrim's Progress" the Man with the Muckrake is set forth as the example of him whose vision is fixed on carnal instead of on spiritual things. Yet he also typifies the man who in this life consistently refuses to see aught that is lofty, and fixes his eyes with solemn intentness only on that which is vile and debasing. Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor, and it must be scraped up with the muck-rake; and there are times and places where this service is the most needed of all the services that can be performed. But the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks or writes, save of his feats with the muck-rake, speedily becomes, not a help to society, not an incitement to good, but one of the most potent forces for evil.
There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.
muckraking in Czech: Muckraking
muckraking in German: Muckraker

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

attack, blackening, character assassination, defamation, defamation of character, defilement, denigration, dirty politics, last-minute lie, malicious defamation, mudslinging, mudslinging campaign, name-calling, political canard, revilement, roorback, smear, smear campaign, smear word, vilification, whispering campaign
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