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Muckraking! The Journalism That Changed America. (books).

Muckraking! The Journalism That Changed America By Judith and William Serrin. The New Press. $40.

"There is filth on the floor, and it must be scraped up with the muckrake," Theodore Roosevelt told journalists investigating corruption in the Senate in 1906; but, he added, those who insist on publicly exposing that filth risk becoming "one of the most potent forces of evil." Roosevelt wasn't the first politician to take offense at what instantly became known as muckraking, and he wouldn't be the last. As this exhaustive anthology shows, investigative journalism is as old as the republic (think Thomas Paine) and as young as the Northwestern University students whose research helped free a death row inmate in 1999. It's a surprisingly readable collection--and full of surprises: Alongside familiar pieces like Seymour Hersh's report on the My Lai massacre are an 1858 expose of dairy-industry practices that killed thousands of infants, William G. Shepherd's bone-chilling account of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, and much more. This kind of journalism may not have single-handedly changed America, as the subtitle claims--it takes more than a news story to do that--but it did shine an unforgiving light on what needed to be changed.

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Author:Bauerlein, Monika
Publication:Mother Jones
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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