Raising Hell: Straight Talk with Investigative Journalists

Article excerpt

Chepesiuk, Ron; Haney Howell; and Edward Lee, eds. (1997). Raising Hell: Straight Talk with Investigative Journalists. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. Inc. Publishers. 181 pp. Paperback, $25.

Raising Hell: Straight Talk with Investigative Journalists compiles verbatim interviews with 12 of today's most prominent muckrakers. What emerges is a profile of award-winning journalists who approach their careers with principle and passion.

Except for a short preface, the editors of Raising Hell leave it to the reader to discern themes tying these investigative journalists together. More analysis on the three editors' part would have revealed common threads about disparate personalities.

This book could benefit students in public affairs reporting classes as an accompaniment to reading the reporters' own works of exemplary journalism. After reading their works, Raising Hell would help to explain the motivations behind the reporters and the circumstances behind their work.

These 12 journalists, not surprisingly, take their mission seriously. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Tim Weiner takes what he calls media "stenographers" to task for failing to report more than just "official" accounts in news stories. Weiner, like the other investigative reporters, has developed a healthy skepticism regarding official sources.

Skepticism gives these reporters the initial idea for an investigation, and shedding light on public lives and institutions gives them their cause. Douglas Frantz, who revealed a different Clark Clifford from the image he cultivated, recalls Supreme Court Justice Brandeis' intonation: "Sunshine is the best disinfectant."

Although sunshine does help to air our dirty laundry, these reporters do not believe they are cynics. To the contrary, they see themselves as skeptical idealists, and when their subjects depart from the public ideal, they expose them. David Burnham, who exposed how the Justice Department often cares more about politics than justice, says, "Cynicism is the absolutely worst thing an investigative reporter can have. Skepticism, on the other hand, means examining and looking closely at everything. …