Muckrakers: How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, and Invent Investigative Journalism


Hold the presses! Here's the sensational story of the birth of investigative journalism in America. At the turn of the 20th century, news reporters and monthly magazines collaborate to create a new kind of journalism—in-depth, serialized exposés of corporate, labor, and political corruption. Many of these stories become instant bestsellers in book format: books like The Jungle, Upton Sinclair's classic account of corruption in the meat-packing industry.

Ann Bausum's dramatic ...

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Hold the presses! Here's the sensational story of the birth of investigative journalism in America. At the turn of the 20th century, news reporters and monthly magazines collaborate to create a new kind of journalism—in-depth, serialized exposés of corporate, labor, and political corruption. Many of these stories become instant bestsellers in book format: books like The Jungle, Upton Sinclair's classic account of corruption in the meat-packing industry.

Ann Bausum's dramatic narrative follows a generation of dedicated journalists who force responsible changes in industry and politics as America thrives. Muckrakers is the inside story of public-spirited journalism right through its evolution, with profiles of latter-day practitioners like Woodward and Bernstein and today's Internet bloggers.

Ann Bausum's storytelling savvy will engage and inspire young people to cherish age-old values such as truth and public accountability. Muckrakers is the scoop on American journalism.

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Editorial Reviews

AGERANGE: Ages 11 to 18.

Bausum focuses on three early twentieth-century journalists to investigate the origins of journalism as a significant player in American politics. She dedicates individual chapters to muckrakers Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens, yet the last two chapters and the afterword make this book stand above other collective biographies. The penultimate chapter shows the muckrakers' direct influence in the years immediately following their original publications. This information neatly ties together their personal stories and shows why the muckrakers are remembered today. The final chapter follows the muckrakers' legacy forward through Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Watergate, and the Walter Reed scandals of the twenty-first century. Although the term muckraker might seem archaic now, Bauman shows that their spiritual descendents have become an important check on government, and that the muckrakers themselves are much more than a footnote in history. The afterword nicely finishes the individual biographies, as well as those of the editors and political and corporate figures for and about whom they wrote. Technically the book is clearly written and well researched. A detailed time line stretches decades before and after the brief era of the muckrakers. Several pages of endnotes are supplemented by a resource guide and bibliography. One quibble is that there are no references within the text to the endnotes. Although this omission contributes to the flow for the reader, it sets a poor example of referencing for students. Reviewer: Beth Karpas
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

Children's Literature - Jennifer Mitchell
Muckraking is not yellow journalism, and the book explains the difference. While muckraking has existed nearly as long as newspaper reporting, it really reached its heyday in the 1890s. Now, we call it investigative journalism. Muckrakers were not popular with everyone, but the readers of newspapers and magazines clamored for the truth to be told. McClure's intelligent reporter and editor, Lincoln Steffens, launched investigative journalism with his expose on government corruption and political bosses in St. Louis, Missouri. Jacob Riis wrote articles about the urban poor and the deplorable living conditions they faced. Ida B. Wells-Barnett exposed the lynching of African-Americans in the South. Ida M. Tarbell exposed the seedy business practices of John D. Rockefeller, the owner of the Standard Oil Company. She uncovered the underhanded ways that Rockefeller's company was obtaining small competitors or running them out of business. As a result of her investigation, the Rockefeller family had to hire their own writers to try to repair their damaged public image. Upton Sinclair wrote about the hardships of factory workers; he is best known for his expose of Chicago's meatpacking facilities. David Graham Phillips, wrote for Collier's about widespread corruption between corporations and U.S. senators. The introduction and the last chapter detail where investigative journalism has gone since the time of the muckrakers. This is an inspirational and educational read that is a must-have for any classroom, library or home—and especially for any current or future journalist. Reviewer: Jennifer Mitchell
School Library Journal

Gr 6-10 The author of With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote (National Geographic, 2004) dishes up an equally compelling account of the birth of investigative journalism in this country. Focusing in particular on Tarbell's scathing history of Standard Oil, Sinclair's only thinly fictionalized exposé of the meatpacking industry, and Steffens's resolute campaign against dishonest politicians, Bausum details instances of corporate greed, government corruption, and disregard for the health of workers and consumers that will seem eerily familiar to today's (well-informed) readers. She also presents convincing case studies to show that the Fourth Estate has often been the driving force pushing for real, meaningful reforms. Supported by sepia-toned photos and a detailed chronology, the text carries the story up to the modern likes of Dana Priest, Seymour Hersh, and some of their contemporaries, and then closes with a multimedia resource guide from which Michael Moore's films are, strangely, absent. Still, budding journalists and social activists in particular can't help but be inspired by the good works of these dedicated, intrepid reporters.-John Peters, New York Public Library

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426301377
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 9/11/2007
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 297,773
  • Age range: 10 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1180L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.99 (w) x 10.46 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Bausum is the daughter of a history professor, and she grew up with a love of American history and a passion for research. She is an award-winning author who has published six other titles for National Geographic Children’s Books, including the acclaimed Sibert Honor Book Freedom Riders. Another of her titles, With Courage and Cloth, won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Older Children. She lives in Beloit, WI. Visit Ann Bausum at her Web site:
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