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Tools of the Craft

  • Fact Checking
  • Getting Started - Keeping Current
  • Don't Limit Your Audience
  • How to Interview
  • Protecting Your Sources
  • What is Investigative Journalism?
  • The Muckraking Tradition
  • Using Style Sheets for Publication
  • Power Structure Research
  • Basics of Responsible Journalism


    The Muckraking Tradition

    by Chip Berlet - Z Media Institute

    Progressives have a long and proud tradition of muckraking, and there are plenty of role models such as Nellie Bly, Ida M. Tarbell, Ida B. Wells, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, George Seldes, I.F. Stone, Rachel Carson, and Seymour Hersh. If you haven't heard of one or more of these journalists, get acquainted with their lives and work by doing your own research.

    In progressive circles look for the contemporary work of Alan Nairn, Deborah Nelson, Laura Washington, Sara Diamond, Russ Bellant, Frederick Clarkson, Esther Kaplan, Bill Berkowitz, Christian Parenti, Trudy Lieberman, Max Blumenthal, Roberto Lovato, and Michelle Goldberg.

    Investigative reporters working as part of the movement for social and economic justice can play an important role in providing the information needed for activists to make effective tactical and strategic decisions. Given the trends we are facing, all of us who want to defend democracy have to fight on four fronts. We must organize against:

    • The rise of reactionary populism, nativism, & fascism with roots in white supremacy, antisemitism, subversion myths, and the many mutating offspring of the Freemason/Jewish banker conspiracy theories.
    • Theocracy and other anti–democratic forms of religious fundamentalism, around the world, which in the US is based in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant with its subtexts of elitist hierarchy, patriarchy and heterosexual privilege.
    • Authoritarian state actions in the form of militarism and interventionism abroad and government repression and erosion of civil liberties at home.
    • The antidemocratic neocorporatism of multinational capital with its attack on the standard of living of working people around the globe. 

    As we promote progressive solutions, we must also join with all persons across the political spectrum to defend the basic ideas of mass democracy, even as we argue that it is an idea that has never been real for many here in our country. The principles of the Enlightenment are not our goal, but resisting attempts to push political discourse back to pre–enlightenment principles is nonetheless a worthy effort.

    Vist a Tribute to the Late Muckraker George Seldes

    Bonus: Teddy Roosevelt blasts the "muck rakers" in journalism. … Reminds us we need more muckrakers in journalism today!

    These pages are adapted from a course, "Strategic Research, Analysis and Reporting," developed by Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, and Abby Scher
    for theZ Media Institute hosted by Z Magazine in Woods Hole Massachusetts.
    Please do not copy or distribute material from these pages.
    Links are welcome.
    All material unless attributed to a specific author is
    © 1968-2015 by Research for Progress

    All Z Media Institute material © 1997-2015 by
    Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, & Abby Scher


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    Democracy is not a specific set of institutions but a process that requires dissent.
    - - -
    Democracy is a process that assumes the majority of people, 
    over time, given enough accurate information,
    the ability to participate in a free and open public debate,
    and to vote without intimidation,
    reach constructive decisions that benefit the whole of society, and 
    preserve liberty, protect our freedoms, extend equality,
    and thus defend democracy itself. 


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