Monday, May 19, 2008


Today I decided to look up muckraker on wikipedia, mainly because I remember the term from NSL in tenth grade, but wasn't sure I remembered what it meant correctly- makes me think Upton Sinclair and "The Jungle", turns out I was right!

Muckraker is a term used mainly to describe investigative journalists in the early 1900's who wrote pieces exposing societal problems in slums, factories, insane asylums, etc. The popularity of these pieces brought attention to abuses/frauds and led to societal reforms. Thus the popularity of muckraker reporting and resulting public interest coincided with the Progressive movement in American politics. I think I remember from high school that muckrackers were also referred to as yellow journalists, but when I look yellow journalism up on wikipedia it says that yellow journalism is associated with sensationalism and libel. Muckrakers were often accused of sensationalizing their expose's, so I guess that's the relation between the two.
"The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair, was a novel exposing corruption in the meatpacking industry and the poverty of those working in the industry. It's popularity lead to reforms.
Interestingly enough, Teddy Roosevelt, the great Progressive, coined the term "muckraker" to refer to these journalists. He related their interest in all the harsh realities of life to a character in John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress", the Man with the Muck-rake, who is only able to look down and contemplate the filth he is raking up on the ground and refuses the celestial crown he is offered in exchange for his muck-rake. Meaning, in case that sentence was too long, that muckrakers focus on the filth of life perhaps to the exclusion of all else. Though this term may seem critical of this type of journalism, Teddy also praised the journalists for their exposure and attack upon the evils in the world.
Even though I think I knew most of this already, it was interesting to learn the origin of the term, and Ralph Nader is also considered one of the most influential modern muckrakers!!

And ps, please do not report me because I think that I stole that image, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Also, this blog proves that Nuala and I are huge nerds.


Nuala said...

I've never heard of this term before - thanks alex for the informative post! :)
best. blog. ever.

Stefan said...

yeah, this may well be the best blog ever. Thanks Nadia!