Muckraker | Definition, History, Examples, & Facts (2024)

journalism

verifiedCite

While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Select Citation Style

Feedback

Thank you for your feedback

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Print

verifiedCite

While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Select Citation Style

Feedback

Thank you for your feedback

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Also known as: muckraking journalism

Written and fact-checked by

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree. They write new content and verify and edit content received from contributors.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Article History

Lincoln Steffens

See all media

Key People:
Upton Sinclair
Lincoln Steffens
Ida Tarbell
Henry Demarest Lloyd
Edwin Markham
Related Topics:
American literature

See all related content →

Top Questions

Where does the term muckraker come from?

The namemuckrakerwaspejorativewhen used by U.S. PresidentTheodore Rooseveltin a speech on April 14, 1906; he borrowed a passage fromJohn Bunyan’sThe Pilgrim’s Progressthat referred to “the Man with the Muckrake…who could look no way but downward.” Butmuckrakercame to take on favourableconnotationsof social concern and courageous exposition.

What does the term muckraker mean?

A muckraker was any of a group of American writers identified with pre-World War Ireform and exposé writing. The muckrakers provided detailed, accuratejournalistic accountsof the political and economic corruption and social hardships caused by the power of big business in a rapidlyindustrializingUnited States.

Who was the first muckraker?

Lincoln Steffens,Ray Stannard Baker, andIda M. Tarbell are considered to have been the first muckrakers, when they wrote articles onmunicipal government, labour, and trusts in the January 1903 issue ofMcClure’s Magazine. The muckraking writing trend grew out of theyellow journalismof the 1890s, which whetted the public appetite for news arrestingly presented, and out of popularmagazines, especially those established by S.S. McClure,Frank A. Munsey, and Peter F. Collier.

muckraker, any of a group of American writers identified with pre-World War I reform and exposé literature. The muckrakers provided detailed, accurate journalistic accounts of the political and economic corruption and social hardships caused by the power of big business in a rapidly industrializing United States. The name muckraker was pejorative when used by U.S. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt in his speech of April 14, 1906; he borrowed a passage from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress that referred to “the Man with the Muckrake…who could look no way but downward.” But muckraker also came to take on favourable connotations of social concern and courageous exposition.

The muckrakers’ work grew out of the yellow journalism of the 1890s, which whetted the public appetite for news arrestingly presented, and out of popular magazines, especially those established by S.S. McClure, Frank A. Munsey, and Peter F. Collier. The emergence of muckraking was heralded in the January 1903 issue of McClure’s Magazine by articles on municipal government, labour, and trusts, written by Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, and Ida M. Tarbell.

The intense public interest aroused by articles critical of political corruption, industrial monopolies, and fraudulent business practices rallied journalists, novelists, and reformers of all sorts to sharpen their criticism of American society. Charles Edward Russell led the reform writers with exposés ranging from The Greatest Trust in the World (1905) to The Uprising of the Many (1907), the latter of which reported on methods being tried to extend democracy in other countries. Lincoln Steffens wrote about corrupt city and state politics in The Shame of the Cities (1904). Brand Whitlock, who wrote The Turn of the Balance (1907), a novel opposing capital punishment, was also a reform mayor of Toledo, Ohio. Thomas W. Lawson, a Boston financier, provided in “Frenzied Finance” (Everybody’s, 1904–05) a major exposé of stock-market abuses and insurance fraud. Tarbell’s The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904) exposed the corrupt practices used to form a great industrial monopoly. Edwin Markham’s Children in Bondage was a major attack on child labour. Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle (1906) and Samuel Hopkins Adams’s The Great American Fraud (1906), combined with the work of Harvey W. Wiley and U.S. Sen. Albert J. Beveridge, brought about passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. David Graham Phillips’s series “The Treason of the Senate” (Cosmopolitan, 1906), which inspired Pres. Roosevelt’s speech in 1906, was influential in leading to the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, which provided for popular senatorial elections. Muckraking as a movement largely disappeared between 1910 and 1912.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Brian Duignan.

Muckraker | Definition, History, Examples, & Facts (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Prof. An Powlowski

Last Updated:

Views: 5761

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Prof. An Powlowski

Birthday: 1992-09-29

Address: Apt. 994 8891 Orval Hill, Brittnyburgh, AZ 41023-0398

Phone: +26417467956738

Job: District Marketing Strategist

Hobby: Embroidery, Bodybuilding, Motor sports, Amateur radio, Wood carving, Whittling, Air sports

Introduction: My name is Prof. An Powlowski, I am a charming, helpful, attractive, good, graceful, thoughtful, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.