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In the late 19th century people who were tired of the constant social injustice and political corruption decided to take a stand and blow the whistle. The term “Muckraker” was taken from the fictional character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The term Muckrakers was used to name the group of writers who called for reform. The writers directed their criticisms and arguments at certain businesses and organizations. They attacked the oil, beef, and tobacco industry for quality and long term effects of their products. They also blew the whistle on prison officials who allowed the conditions in prisons to be outlandishly bad. The food processing business was also under scrutiny from muckrakers. The handling of food, the contents and packaging were just some of the things the muckrakers attacked. Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle was an example of muckraking against a food industry. The book produced a big shockwave in its time, helping to get the wheels in motion for the federal legislation regulating food and drug practices. Sinclair later became a Pulitzer Prize Winner for the piece.
Another famous example of muckraking is David Graham Phillip’s “The Treason of the Senate”, published in the Cosmopolitan in 1906. Phillips article brought political corruption to the public eye. This article was read by President Theodore Roosevelt and infuriated the president so much that he launched a crusade to put down the muckrakers. Many of the muckrakers were Roosevelt supporters, who criticized him harshly for deserting their cause. Roosevelt’s wrath over the article and combined efforts at muckraking later culminated in the adoption of the 17th amendment. Amendment 17 amends Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution to provide for the direct election of Senators by the people of a state rather than their election or appointment by a state legislature, thus effectively eliminating state representation in Congress.
Muckraking was just the first examples of investigative journalism that proliferated in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. The most famous example of this later investigative journalism is the
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