Thursday, June 26, 2008

In the Classroom with Bob Doda

The following is a short essay on the impact of old muckrakers have on the new media. It's for a class so if anyone has any suggestions I'm happy to oblige.

Muckraking and The New Media

It is a journalist’s greatest tool and a politician’s worst nightmare. The term “muckraker” refers to an investigative reporter exposing an injustice that society never would have known about if it wasn’t for that particular story. Some of the most famous muckrakers are Nellie Bly and her reports from inside Blackwell’s Island mental institution and Upton Sinclair’s expose of the impoverished in The Jungle. That spirit of exposing the underbelly of society is arguably more alive today than ever before. Modern day journalists have taken cues and learned many lessons from muckrakers of the past, only it is a more ruthless network.
No matter how caring or clean someone in the spotlight may seem, there is always a skeleton hidden in the closet. This has become a rule of thumb for most 24/7 news outlets. Barack Obama and his family once were members of Reverend Wright’s congregation in his home town of Chicago, Illinois. Months into his campaign trail for the democratic nomination, the various internet videos featuring the Reverend ranting about how America has stomped all of African Americans became a major talking point for all candidates involved. Primarily, the Reverend’s speech has nothing to do with how good a president Mr. Obama would make. But by stirring the pot and by digging into his past, ABC news found and exposed Obama as a possible racist himself with this story in March of 2008.
Muck sells. Muckraking circles the globe before the parties involved has a chance to respond. In Obama’s case, he responded with a forty five minute speech discussing race. His eloquence probably won him more votes than hurt him in the long run. Muckraking can be very costly as well. Dan Rather lost his job at CBS news subsequently following a story about George W. Bush’s military records which turned out to be forged documents. That pursuit to break controversial news and stir the pot backfired and destroyed more than one career. When muckraking was just beginning, the stories exposed harmful aspects of society which caused many policy changes. Today, most muckraking stories are about the defamation of individual’s character with some important exceptions.
The horrific stories and images from inside the Abu Ghraib Prison sent shockwaves through the entire world when a report aired in April of 2004. The war was still in it’s early stages and was not going exactly as planned by our commander and chief. After seeing the American atrocities, the public began to really come out against our war effort in Iraq. The remainder of public nationalism was drained and the Iraqi detainee became a sympathetic figure. Around the world, the image of the United States has been tarnished, possibly forever due to one reporter’s work.
The importance of this type of journalism cannot be underestimated. Muckrakers historically have changed the world and become famous. As long as there are awful people in this world, there will be a “Shame, Shame Shame” segment on the evening news.

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