muckraking n : the exposure of scandal (especially about public figures)
- present participle of muckrake
- 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 termPresident 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
- Samuel Hopkins Adams (1871–1958) — The Great American Fraud, exposed false claims about patent medicines
- Ray Stannard Baker (1870–1946) — of McClure's Magazine & American Magazine
- Cecil Chesterton (1879-1918) - of The New Witness and the 1912 Marconi scandal in Britain
- Burton J. Hendrick (1870–1949) — "The Story of Life Insurance" May - November 1906 McClure's Magazine
- Helen Hunt Jackson (1831–1885) — A Century of Dishonor, U.S. policy regarding American Indians
- Frances Kellor (1873-1952) — Studied chronic unemployment in her book Out of Work (1904)
- Thomas W. Lawson (1857-1924) Frenzied Finance (1906) on Amalgamated Copper stock scandal
- Henry Demarest Lloyd (1852-1920) - Wealth Against Commonwealth, exposed the corruption within the Standard Oil Company
- Nellie Bly (1864 – 1922) Ten Days in a Mad-House
- Jessica Mitford (1917–1996) — author of The American Way of Death (US Funeral Industry) and Making of a Muckraker (collection on various topics including writing schools and prisons)
- Frank Norris (1870 -1902) The Octopus
- Fremont Older (1856 - 1935) San Francisco corruption and the case of Tom Mooney
- Westbrook Pegler (1894–1969) — exposed crime in labor unions in 1940s
- Jacob Riis (1849-1914) - How the Other Half Lives, the slums
- Charles Edward Russell (1860–1941) — investigated Beef Trust, Georgia's prison
- George Seldes (1890–1995) — Freedom of the Press (1935) and Lords of the Press (1938), blacklisted during the 1950s period of McCarthyism
- Upton Sinclair (1878–1968) — The Jungle'' (1906), U.S. meat-packing industry, and the books in the "Dead Hand" series that critique the institutions (journalism, education, etc.) that could but did not prevent these abuses.
- John Spargo, (1876–1966) — American reformer and author, Bitter Cry of Children (child labor)
- William Thomas Stead - crusaded against child prostitution in Victorian England with The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon in the Pall Mall Gazette
- Lincoln Steffens (1866 – 1936) The Shame of the Cities (1904)
- I.F. Stone (1907–1989) — McCarthyism and Vietnam War, published newsletter, I.F. Stone's Weekly
- Kasey Swift (1904-1999) - Weekly editor of Atlanta Journal Constitution, wrote Keys to the City (non-fiction book about influence of political bosses on Atlanta politics). Early Civil Rights advocate.
- Ida M. Tarbell (1857 – 1944) exposé, The History of the Standard Oil Company
- John Kenneth Turner — (1879-1948) author of Barbarous Mexico (1910), an account of the exploitative debt peonage system used in Mexico under Porfirio Díaz.
- Ben Bagdikian — journalist and major American Media Critic, also the dean emeritus of the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism; author of "The Media Monopoly" and "The New Media Monopoly"
- Wayne Barrett — investigative journalist, senior editor of the Village Voice; wrote on mystique and misdeeds in Rudy Giuliani's conduct as mayor of New York City, Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (2006)
- Richard Behar — investigative journalist, two-time winner of the 'Jack Anderson Award'. Anderson himself once praised Behar as "one of the most dogged of our watchdogs"
- Barbara Ehrenreich — journalist and author - Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
- Stuart Goldman- investigative reporter, critic, syndicated columnist.
- Juan Gonzalez (journalist) — investigative reporter, columnist in New York Daily News
- Amy Goodman — broadcast journalist, host of Pacifica Network's program Democracy Now!
- Al Gore - author of An Inconvienient Truth (2006) about global warming.
- John Howard Griffin (1920–1980) — white journalist who disguised himself as a black man to write about racial injustice in the south
- Seymour Hersh — My Lai massacre, Israeli nuclear weapons program, Henry Kissinger, the Kennedys, 2003 invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib abuses
- Malcolm Johnson — exposed organized crime on the New York waterfront
- Jonathan Kwitny (1941–1998) — wrote numerous investigative articles for the The Wall Street Journal
- Joshua Micah Marshall - writer and journalist, operates the muckraking blog TPM Muckraker, responsible for helping to break the 2006-2007 US Attorney firing scandal, the Duke Cunningham corruption case and others.
- Stephen Mayne — shareholder-activist and founder of crikey.com.au
- Mark Crispin Miller — professor and writer; has written on 2000 and 2004 contested elections
- Michael Moore — documentary filmmaker, director of Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 911, and Sicko
- Ralph Nader — consumer rights advocate; Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), exposed unsafe automobile manufacturing
- Allan Nairn — Dili Massacre, US backing of Haitian death squad FRAPH
- Jack Newfield — muckraking columnist; wrote for New York Post
- Greg Palast — politics and elections issues, Exxon Valdez, corporate crime, corruption
- John Pilger — award-winning war correspondent, film maker and author
- Jeffrey Robinson - author of "The Laundrymen" - Inside money laundering, the world's third largest business
- Eric Schlosser — author of Fast Food Nation, an exposé of fast food in American culture
- Morgan Spurlock — American Filmmaker; exposed through example the dangers of McDonalds in his documentary Super Size Me
- Studs Terkel — Legendary Chicago writer, journalist, DJ, and historian
- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (1937–2005) — American journalist and author credited with the invention of gonzo journalism
- Gary Webb (1955–2004) — investigated Contra-crack cocaine connection, published as Dark Alliance (1999)
- Gary Weiss — exposed the Mob on Wall Street, described by Barron's Magazine'' as "an old-time gumshoe, with a soupçon of little-guy champion Jimmy Breslin and a dash of 1950s bad-boy comic Lenny Bruce"
- Nathan Winograd -- exposes issues in U.S. animal shelters in "Redemption" (2007)
- Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — breakthrough journalists for Washington Post on the Watergate scandal; authors of All the President's Men, non-fiction account of the scandal
Roosevelt Speech Reference NoteTheodore 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
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