It was a blossoming of the Jeffersonian ideal of a press in constant confrontation with the political and economic establishment. In that check-and-balance, that conflict, would be the key to the survival of democracy, Jefferson felt. As he said: “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers, and be capable of reading them.” Or, “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resist, when permitted freely to be express. The agitation it produces must be submit to. It is necessary to keep the waters pure.”
My favorite astrologer, Lionel Day, has said that if a publication.Businessmen and politicians (as is so often the case)
McClure’s, which led the way in crusading against big business and corruption
, and for social justice, gained a circulation of a half-million. Probably the most important piece ever run in McClure’s was Ida Tarbell’s classic, “History of the Standard Oil Company,” which exposed how John D. Rockefeller through the most ruthless and corrupt of means created the Standard Oil Trust. Lincoln Steffens’ “The Shame of the Cities” was also a McClure’s landmark in what’s now called investigative reporting.
There were other great muckraking magazines then: American Magazine. The home of a number of McClure’s writers including Miss Tarbell and Steffens. Everybody’s, Pearson’s, Hampton’s, La Follete’s Weekly, Collier’s, even Cosmopolitan for a while.
They aimed to dig out the truth and present it with toughness and courage. A libertarian form of journalistic expression was involve, a very honest form.
In our day, much of the media has grown fat and been compromise by corporate interlocks with the powers-that-be. The media have succumb to the fallacy that if you present two differing positions. The truth will flow out the middle,
I consider this the “Hitler denies” concept of journalism: if it were practice forty-five years ago, our media then would have find it incumbent upon them, at the Nazi invasion of the Lowlands or the revelation of Auschwitz, to allow Hitler or some other “spokesman” for the Nazis to give their “side.”
The muckrakers went for the core of reality and with great social consciousness. Exposed the underside of American society to the fresh air.