Judith and William Serrin’s edition of Muckraking! The Journalism That Changed America

Judith and William Serrin’s edition of Muckraking! The Journalism That Changed America, is a collection of reportage documents that rarely appear in headlines due to corporate conglomeration and media triviality (Aucoin ). The book is at the forefront of providing readers with manuscripts that offer a journalistic tradition full of passion for change, a depth in vision and sheer bravery. The primary goal of the book is to illustrate how professional journalism made America great through its contribution, from as far as the Stamp Act, the abolition movement, the disastrous Vietnam war, safety for atomic workers under the government and the riddance of labor spies. The book features as many as 125 entries across a period of three centuries and does a superb job at bringing back some of the grandest moments in the history of journalism in America to light. With an unending supply of critical commentaries and several historical contexts, it includes an assortment of influential illustrations and photographs that would satisfy the appetite about the leaps and bounds made by journalism.

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General overview

It was President Theodore Roosevelt who was responsible for the coining of the term “muckraking” in 1906 and it was not long until this phrase became part of the American lexicon. He was a politician in the line of duty trying to curb one of the worst excesses ever witnessed in the American industrial revolution. Evidence had emerged that progressive reforms were still preserving the brutal capitalist system and Roosevelt was aware that his dangerous balancing act was under threat from investigative journalism with these investigative crusaders writing pieces capable of inflaming the masses(Goodwin 12). And so, the pejorative term “muckrakers” was born, even though individuals who received this insult would embrace it as a badge of honor. William and Judith Serrin have thus become editors of a detailed anthology that surprisingly supplies an exclamation mark at the extreme end of the moniker. The has a celebratory tone that seems to imply that it commemorates some of the greatest investigative articles from old colonial days to the life presently.

Arrangement of crucial topics and discourses

The book features a unique arrangement of issues from an array of topics; women, race, politics, war workers’ rights, the justice system, the poor, the press, conservation, public health, and safety. It is also filled with classic American accounts such as exclusive excerpts emanating from Lincoln Steffen’s and The Shame of Cities(Steffens), Ida Tarbell’s in-depth expose into Standard Oil owned by John. D Rockefeller, How the Other far Half Lives by Jacob Rii, an undercover account on life in an insane asylum by Nellie Bly, an investigation into lynching in the American South by Ida. B Wells and the “treason” claims leveled against the Senate by David Graham Phillips that also happens to be the trigger for Roosevelt’s denunciation of the act of muckraking a couple of weeks later. Moreover, the anthology contains gems that are less predictable that base their activities on local reporting done by other mainstream outlets that have not been acknowledged for their brazen crusading journalism (Serrin and Serrin 45). Such articles are objectively written and also serve as devastating investigation as was the case with the Chicago Tribune reporting the firecracker casualties of 1899, the 1911 UPI detailed account of the Shirtwaist fire which was led to the death of 146 female workers, New York World’s 1921 indictment that involved the Ku Klux Klan and a 1957 article series that had slum housing in Daytona Beach, Florida.

All articles and accounts found in the book were either controversial during their day or rattled feathers in high places and were the source of conflict between those who were caught up in the ensuing brawl between the belligerents. Eventually, it is those brave trailblazers that led to massive reforms and the full implementation of the law as the constitution stipulates.  Furthermore, it is easy to read and would serve as an excellent resource for institutions and journalists who would want to investigate the history of their profession. It illuminates most of the challenges that bold journalists would have to grapple with in the formative days when investigative journalism, in particular, was unheard of by many. In addition to the newspaper articles, the book also features a number of radio transcriptions that depict the evolution of the culture of exposing those doing wrong in the American society.

The book contains narratives of people who dedicated their time to ensure that the ideals that the founding fathers of the United States fought for in terms of freedom and justice for all are not forgotten at any given moment. The pursuit of happiness by people and equality feature largely in the excerpts that also make good use of dairy keeping or fictional writing as is the case with John Howard who decides to take himself back in time an experience of a Negro in the American South. Telling the story of a slave and their experiences is a good idea for an expose, but an author who decides to go back in time and give a detailed account of the experience of a slave by playing the slave, reveals the appalling nature of the institution of slavery, which was the pillar of the economy in the South.  The reporters in this anthology have perfected the art of writing stories that have a personal feel to the together with offering logical arguments and facts. It is involving for a reader and one soon gets on board, ensuring that they get to feel how life was for those living during these periods or through the horror that some went through.

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