History 44

Muckraking, The Professionalization of Journalism,and the "New Politics"

NOTE: class will consider these issues in the context of the work of Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair. In addition to considering each with reference to "muckraking," attention will be given to the specific issues addressed in their major works: Meat Inspection(H44#3B); and Urban Reform (Shame of the Cities, see H44#3C).
*introduction: general overview of movement and issues
1. "muckraking" the distinctive political style of progressivism, just as other phases of liberalism often corresponded to distinctive media styles: (a) Federalist papers and 18th century literary newspapers; (b)"penny dailies" of Jacksonian era; (c)radio and FDR; (d)TV and "making of presidents" since 1960s esp. JFK, Vietnam, and more recently role of "new magazines" (20-20 etc.) ; and (e) computer technology:mass mailings since the 1970s;internet in 1990s (role of Web site in Clinton-Lewinsky case).
2. contours of "muckraking" since came in phrases before TR coined the term in 1906: "pre-muckraking" (see pp 3-8 in Fitzpatrick, ed.
a. early 1870s Thomas Nast cartoons
Henry and Charles F,. Adams,
Chapters of Erie
b. 1890s (more distinctly ideological, esp. left)
W.T. Stead
B.O. Flower and the
H.D. Lloyd
Wealth Against Commonwealth
c. 1903 (Jan. McClure's "formal" discovered) to 1906 (TR attack, formation of American Magazine and transformation of McClure's, to "sensationalist" phase of smaller muckraking journals (1907-14):
Hampton's, Pearson's. Over by 1914-16.
i. 1902-3. McClure's discovery. See editorial in January
McClure's in Fitzpatrick ed. Pp. 101-2. Questions:
* Is it enough to reduce all to "law breaking"?
* Definition of "Americans of good stock" ?
* Judgment of other institutions? Legal profession, churches, college?
* Who are "the people"? "We"?
 ii. 1904-05. At height.
Everybody's, Collier's, Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post adopt.
iii. 1906-10. Increasing sensationalism and some reform.. Phillips
Treason leads to TR attack;
iv. Temporary rebirth 1910-12 response to Ballinger case, rise of Insurgency etc. brings back to national politics
v. 1912-14.
* Can speak of leading ones as identifiable group since of ca 200 articles 1903-12, some 40% are written by 12 individuals, including S.H. Adams,
R.S. Baker, B.J. Hendrick, Charles E. Russell, Lincoln Steffens, D.G. Phillips, Upton Sinclair, Alfred H. Lewis, Thomas W. Lawson, Ida Tarbell . This week will focus on those in bold for discussion and generalizations.
3. Historiography roughly parallels that of progressivism generally.
a. muckrakers themselves talked of "realism" as result of "science," which they often conflated with "democracy." See e.g. Baker,
Native American, p. and Ida Tarbell, All in a Days Work, p. and Steffens Autobiography, p.
b. Hofstadter
Age of Reform same as essence of the cathartic style of progressive era, seeing muckrakers as especially sensitive individually to status loss. How might Hofstadter interpret the McClure's editorial of January 1901.
c. Modernization/corporatism interpretations for a long time did not discuss since their emphasis as not on role of public opinion but elites. But with Schudsen,
Discovering and Wilson, Labor of Words have looked at implications of professionalization and commercialization of journalism.
* Report/ discuss theses of Schudsen,
Discovering the News and Wilson, Labor of Words, esp. Introduction, ch. 1. Implications of Wilson's analysis for Rodger's "three languages" of progressivism, and the "pluralist" analysis generally?
4. major issues. Despite significant differences, the above converge on several issues that need explaining:
a. explanation of the distinctive "genre" of factuality," whether called "realism" or "popular naturalism." This is a subset of larger issue of emergence of "realism" as distinctive style of American middle class discourse in late 19th and early 20th century century
(for example, see Baker,
American Chronicle , chs. 11, 18-22)
*discussion of exactly what muckraking style was: ralate to other comparable forms
"satire". This contrast suggests comparson between American and older European societies. Satire demands aristocracy?
"cynicism" esp. with relation to contemporary "naturalist cynics" Mencken, Beirce, .
b. their political commitments (or lack thereof). How muckaking functioned, whether as catharsis or as aspect of "new politics"
c. apparent bifurcation between literary/philosophical and hardheaded scientist/journalist, whether echoes (as with Steffens) in choice of friends/confidants, Baker (and his nom de plume David Grayson. Also in their tendency to escapism (or is this just "normal" for anyone who makes money: Steffens to Cos Cob, Baker to Amherst,
d. later careers (Steffens as pro-Soviet, Baker as Wilson admirer, Tarbell as "defender" of big business). and legacy
I. Origins
* examination of personal careers of Baker, Tarbell, Steffens (and London, Sinclair, and Phillips as discussed in Wilson) to see if any common patterns.
A. Family Backgrounds. See Fitzpatrick.
B. Education and Lure of "science" : Wilson,
Labor on Steffens
C. Career choices (and identity problems): uses of psychological explanations to explain the "masculine" style. E.G. James McGovern, "D.G. Phillips and the Virility Impulse of the Progressives,"
New England Quarterly 39 (1966), 334-55;
*hypothesis: journalism seemed to many the way to resolve dichotomies implicit in career choices
II. The "New Journalism"
summary of movement:
John Brisbane Walker,
Frank A. Munsey,
Munsey's Magazine
S.S. McClure,
A. External factors (technology etc.). See Fitzpatrick, ed. pp. 8-12
B. How revolutionary:
McClure's as convergence of several preexisting strains, and finally not as dramatically new as sometimes stated. how did "new journalism" differ from its 19th c. forerunners? (Wilson)? Consequences?(see list of questions in Wilson, p. 91). Relation of "mugwump" attitude and the new cult of "expertise" and "professionalism"? (Wilson)
a. relation between absence/presence of established literary vocation and character of literature (e.g. , "feminization" , "democratic" thrust? (Wilson)
b. causes of professionalization of literature/ journalism (see Wilson)
c."fact" vs. "story" as expressing editor/reporter conflict, and more generally, bureaucratization vs. professionalization.
d. relation of professions to market? how did journalism differ in this regard from other professions emerging at same time?
C. Ways in which it shaped muckraking
1. separation of ownership and control: rise of editor
2. editor/writer conflict
* further discussion of Wilson,
Labor, compared with Schudsen, Discovering the News
The Crusade
* muckaking revealing in subjects discussed, as well as those largely ignored. Overview shows how followed the "three languages" in stressing economics (antitrust) first, political (community and communal responsibility second), and social issues third.
A. Economic (list of leading works)
B. Political (possibly including further discussion of Lincoln Steffens
Shame of the Cities
C. Social
*postscript on muckraking and race based on R.C. Bannister, "Muckrakers and Race," in
Muckraking Past and Present, ed. Harrison and Stein (Penn State Press, Fall 1973), pp. 45-64. Shows limits of genre.
III. Muckraking and Politics
A. The press and the "New Politics" (summary of David P. Nord,
Newspapers and the New Politics (1981).
B. The Press and the Definition of Community (Sally Griffiths,
Small Town News)
C. Presidency and the Press (including TRs attack on Muckrakers) [from
George Juergens, "Theodore Roosevelt and the Press,"
Daedalus 111 (1982): 113-33 ; and News from the White House: The Presidential Press Relationship in the Progressive Era (1982)]. Discussed in light of T.Rs redefntion of the presidency, and Herbert Croly, Promise of American Life (1909)
IV. Decline and Legacy (see Fitzpatrick, "Conclusion"
A. Earlier explanations
1. Advertisers Conspiracy see E.A. Ross,
2. Inherent "conservatism" of muckrakers: The American Magazine as case study
B. Literature and the Market place
1. Consumerism and the alienated self (Schudsen)
2. The contradictions of the market place (Wilson,
Labor of Words)
Written by Robert Bannister, for classroom use in History 44, Swarthmore College. May be reproduced in whole or part for educational purposes, but not copied or distributed for profit.