(redirected from muckraking)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial, Wikipedia.


name applied to American journalists, novelists, and critics who in the first decade of the 20th cent. attempted to expose the abuses of business and the corruption in politics. The term derives from the word muckrake used by President Theodore Roosevelt in a speech in 1906, in which he agreed with many of the charges of the muckrakers but asserted that some of their methods were sensational and irresponsible. He compared them to a character from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress who could look no way but downward with a muckrake in his hands and was interested only in raking the filth. Since the 1870s there had been recurrent efforts at reform in government, politics, and business, but it was not until the advent of the national mass-circulation magazines such as McClure's, Everybody's, and Collier's that the muckrakers were provided with sufficient funds for their investigations and with a large enough audience to arouse nationwide concern. All aspects of American life interested the muckrakers, the most famous of whom are Lincoln SteffensSteffens, Lincoln
(Joseph Lincoln Steffens), 1866–1936, American editor and author, b. San Francisco, grad. Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1889, and studied three years in Europe.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Ida TarbellTarbell, Ida Minerva,
1857–1944, American author, b. Erie co., Pa., grad. Allegheny College (B.A., 1880; M.A., 1883). One of the leading muckrakers, she is remembered for her investigations of industry published in McClure's magazine.
..... Click the link for more information.
, David Graham PhillipsPhillips, David Graham,
1867–1911, American writer, b. Madison, Ind., grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton), 1887. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Cincinnati and New York City, rising to editorial rank on the New York World, for which he wrote until 1902.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Ray Stannard BakerBaker, Ray Stannard,
pseud. David Grayson,
1870–1946, American author, b. Lansing, Mich., grad. Michigan State College (now Michigan State Univ.), 1889. At first a Chicago newspaper reporter, he joined the staff of McClure's Magazine
..... Click the link for more information.
, Samuel Hopkins AdamsAdams, Samuel Hopkins,
1871–1958, American author, b. Dunkirk, N.Y., grad. Hamilton College, 1891. He was a reporter for the New York Sun (1891–1900) and then joined McClure's Magazine,
..... Click the link for more information.
, and Upton SinclairSinclair, Upton
(Upton Beall Sinclair), 1878–1968, American novelist and socialist activist, b. Baltimore, grad. College of the City of New York, 1897. He was one of the muckrakers, and a dedication to social and industrial reform underlies most of his writing.
..... Click the link for more information.
. In the early 1900s magazine articles that attacked trusts—including those of Charles E. Russell on the beef trust, Thomas Lawson on Amalgamated Copper, and Burton J. Hendrick on life insurance companies—did much to create public demand for regulation of the great combines. The muckraking movement lost support in about 1912. Historians agree that if it had not been for the revelations of the muckrakers the Progressive movement would not have received the popular support needed for effective reform.


See L. Filler, Crusaders for American Liberalism (1939); J. M. Harrison and H. H. Stein, ed., Muckraking (1974); W. M. Brasch, Forerunners of Revolution (1990).



a group of American writers and publicists who in the early 20th century exposed the abuses of monopolies and the corruption of the state and of political parties in the United States. The muckrakers included the publicists L. Steffens, T. W. Lawson, I. Tarbell, D. G. Phillips, J. Riis, R. Baker, and G. Mayers and the writers J. London, T. Dreiser, and U. Sinclair. They demanded the implementation of democratic reforms but failed to deal with the bases of the capitalist system as a whole. Their activities reflected widespread indignation in the United States with the dominance of monopolies in the economic and political life of the country.



a group of American writers, journalists, publicists, and sociologists who were sharply critical of American society. The muckrakers were especially active between 1902 and 1917.

Coined in 1906 by US President T. Roosevelt, the term “muckrakers” was inspired by J. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which describes a character who digs about in the mud but fails to notice the bright skies overhead. J. L. Steffens’ article denouncing bribe-takers and embezzlers (1902) is considered the literary beginning of the muckraking movement. Educated in the ideals of the Enlightenment, the muckrakers sensed the sharp contrast between the principles of democracy and the unattractive reality of America, which was then entering its imperialist phase. However, they were mistaken in assuming that minor reforms could eradicate the evil conditions engendered by antagonistic social contradictions. The muckrakers’ proclivity for social exposés survived in the literature of American critical realism—for example, in novels by S. Lewis and U. Sinclair.


Zasurskii, la. N. Amerikanskaia literatura XX veka. Moscow, 1966.
Weinberg, A., and L. Weinberg. The Muckrakers. New York, 1961.
References in periodicals archive ?
The new technology is exhilarating, and it's enabling great journalism," says Charles Lewis, head of American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop, who has been a leader of the global muckraking movement.
To some, muckraking is akin to so-called "yellow" or biased journalism.
This time out America's premiere muckraking filmmaker wants to know why every other industrialized nation in the world has chosen to make access to health care a basic right, and why the richest country on the planet lets 50 million people fall through the holes of our pay-as-you-go health care system.
When her father, who owns an apple orchard in Australia, is accused of toxic over-spraying by a muckraking television journalist, it is a blessing in disguise.
Muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair, in his 1919 book "The Brass Check," wrote, "Everywhere in the world of journalism, high and low, you see this power of the advertiser.
A muckraking new documentary hints that Catholic and Protestant clergy play a mysterious role in assigning the familiar G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 ratings for American films, but the Catholic delegate says he's got absolutely nothing to do with the outcome.
Andrew Mitchell (Con Sut-ton Coldfield) added: "Instead of indulging in juvenile muckraking activity, the Labour Party should concentrate on delivering on the promises it make at the last election only 18 months ago.
Politicians and their staffers have been muckraking for embarrassing information about opponents throughout American history.
Upton Sinclair's muckraking book, The Jungle, generated the public outrage that won passage of the 1906 Pure Foods and Drugs Act, which empowered the government to seize dangerous products.
Until these covert ties were exposed in 1967 by the muckraking lefty magazine Ramparts, the CIA served as what the foreign policy eminence George Kennan--the author of the "containment" strategy and co-architect of the Marshall Plan, yet a longtime critic of Cold War excesses--once called an unofficial "Ministry of Culture.
Parent approaches his subjects--the heads of Virginia's much-celebrated "First Families"--with the jaundiced eye of a muckraking reporter, eager to expose the fraud, brutality, and corruption of America's original ruling class.