Muckraking Essay, Research Paper
The American philosopher Hannah Arendt said, Revolutionaries do not make revolutions. The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying on the street and then they can pick it up. The Progressive era of American history marked an explosion of industrial revolution. Despite the apparent progress, abominable living and working conditions existed for the middle class. The journalists Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker sought to voice the injustices of the working class, consequently earning the labels of muckrackers . The muckrakers led a mass media revolution by providing the public with dynamic articles voicing the controversial situation of the urban working class, illegal businesses practices, and political corruptness.
The Muckrakers wanted to raise American society s consciousness to the injustices placed on the working classes. The apparent wide spread prosperity of the era was limited to a select few and came at the cost of many. These journalists realized that media reached a point where news is read by the working class American. In addition, what they say will not be heard by an elite few, but by everyone. Printing technology of the time enabled one to add illustrations to text and newspapers and magazines became affordable for lower class citizens. These three felt that Americans needed to know about the corruption and the suffering that went on daily in all major cities in the United States. Until the Muckrakers, Americans did not have a reliable source for information regarding politics or corporate America on a nationwide scale. Although these writers investigated corruption in many forms, all they could do is inform the nation but in some instances this was the best solution.
These reporters revolutionized the way media is reported and dug deep for answers until they came up with something highly controversial. Each writer added their own insight to the columns they wrote and worked on many levels to get rid of any corruption and labor abuse. Ida Tarbell had a personal obsession with the oil industry. She grew up in the booming oil towns in Pennsylvania witnessing the gruesome scenes of accidental death and physical destruction all to common to these oil towns of the time. Ida recalled a young mother hurrying to build a fire in her cookstove poured oil on the wood before she made sure there were no live coals in the firebox An awful explosion occurred, and the woman and two neighbors who ran to her assistance were burned to a crisp (12). Her father, an independent oil manufacturer, warned Ida not to mess with John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. He knew what it was like to be grabbed in the stranglehold of Standard Oil. This corporation ruined Mr. Tarbell and he did not want this to happen to Ida and the magazine. Ida apparently knew what she was doing and continued to dig up muck on Standard Oil. She fought them the only way she knew how, by reporting. Eventually, the government listened and broke up the trust. Ida, Ray, and Lincoln were extremely objective in their monthly writings in the McClure magazine. Although Ida was most objective because of her sources used. For two years during the investigation of the Oil War of 1872, Ida had regular meetings with Henry H. Rogers, a powerful Standard Oil executive. The meetings gave them a chance to defend themselves against allegations. Mr. Roger viewed this meeting as an attempt to shape the truth by giving the company s views of events. Ms. Tarbell listened, compared facts, and threw out whatever she thought was a variation from the truth. She had such a vast knowledge of the oil industry that her construction of her historical narrative is remarkably objective.
Through media correspondence, the Muckrakers raised public and government awareness to corrupt practices in government and business. The Muckrackers role in the evolution of media set a standard of raising awareness to controversial issues undermining American morality.