Academic journal article Journalism History

Journalistic Advocates and Muckrakers: Three Centuries of Crusading Writers

Academic journal article Journalism History

Journalistic Advocates and Muckrakers: Three Centuries of Crusading Writers

Article excerpt

Applegate, Edd. Journalistic Advocates and Muckrakers: Three Centuries of Crusading Writers. Jefferson, North Carolina, and London: McFarland & Company, 1997. 224 pp. $39.95.

This biographical dictionary offers 101 entries on writers whom Edd Applegate identifies as practicing advocacy or muckraking journalism. The author, an associate professor of journalism at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, wrote the entries and a short introductory essay that establishes the criteria Applegate has used to select his entries.

Like many of us, the author seeks a workable definition of muckraking. "In essence," he says, "muckraking journalism occurs when a reporter or writer suspects that there may be a potential problem in some field, investigates to determine if the problem actually exists, and then reports about the problem." Applegate combines muckraking with centuries-old advocacy and modern personal reporting under the umbrella of new journalism. He eliminates literary journalism from the mix.

Applegate offers entries ranging from early advocates such as Thomas Paine, Karl Marx, Jonathan Swift, and Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) to the classic muckrakers led by Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida Tarbel to modern reporters and crusading writers such as Eldridge Cleaver, Ralph Nader, and Gloria Steinem. The 101 sketches focus on the writers' contribution to advocacy, but Applegate has introduced tidbits that often help with the characterizations. Of the individuals, forty-eight are still living, and some of them seem to have been selected for potential rather than accomplishment.

However, the temptation with any biographical dictionary is to question who is included or who is not. …

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