Remembering muckraker journalist Ida Tarbell– “The Most Famous Woman in America”

I’ve been reading historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book The Bully Pulpit– Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  One of the most interesting chapters is about Ida Tarbell, one of the leading muckraker journalists of the time.

A friend reminded me that Tarbell died 70 years ago yesterday, so it is fitting to remember her for her great contributions, especially considering the extent to which our journalism has changed.

According to Goodwin, Ida Tarbell was on the leading edge of “a new breed of investigative reporter dedicated to extensive fact-finding and analysis.  Their disclosures of the corrupt linkages between business, labor, and government educated and aroused the public, spearheading the Progressive movement that would define the early years of the twentieth century.”

Goodwin quotes historian Richard Hofstadter:  “It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the Progressive mind was characteristically a journalistic mind, and that its characteristic contribution was that of the socially-responsible reporter-reformer.  Before there could be action, there must be information and exhortation.  Grievances had to be given specific objects, and these the muckraker supplied.  It was muckraking that brought the diffuse malaise of the public into focus.”

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