4/19/2012: The issue of the net social social value of this blog has come up in the comments. While not even an economist would argue that the revealed preferences of our readers and commenters means it must be positive, there is an argument from history, and from authority – no less an authority than former (US) President Theodore Roosevelt. From wikipedia:
After President Theodore Roosevelt took office in 1901, he began to manage the press corps and to do so he elevated his press secretary to cabinet status and initiated press conferences. The muckraking journalists who emerged around 1900, like the muckraking Lincoln Steffens, were not as easy for Roosevelt to manage as the objective journalists, and the President gave Steffens access to the White House and interviews to steer stories his way.
While he may never have used the term himself, the origin of the “muckraker” is attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt, who, during a speech delivered on April 14, 1906, and on the occasion of dedicating the U.S. House of Representatives office building, drew on a character from John Bunyan’s 1678 classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, saying:“… you may recall the description of the Man with the Muck-rake, the man who could look no way but downward with the muck-rake in his hands; Who was offered a celestial crown for his muck-rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor.”
While cautioning about possible pitfalls of keeping one’s attention ever trained downward, “on the muck,” Roosevelt emphasized the social benefit of investigative muckraking reporting, saying:There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.
The muckrakers themselves proudly adopted the label.
The term eventually came to be used in reference to investigative journalists who reported about and exposed issues such as crime, fraud, waste, public health and safety, graft, illegal financial practices. A muckraker’s reporting may span businesses and government.