Citizen Reporters: S.S. McClure, Ida Tarbell, and the Magazine That Rewrote America

Ecco. Feb. 2020. 384p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062796646. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062796660. COMM
Consummate examples of groundbreaking investigative journalism include Upton Sinclair’s muckraking, which exposed the poor working conditions of Chicago’s meat-packing industry, and Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s sleuthing, toppled the Nixon administration after the Watergate break-in. Yet as freelance writer Gorton reveals, McClure’s magazine (1893–1931) was instrumental in paving the way for reporters to battle corruption and drive change in society. Assembling a crack team of writers, including most notably Ida Tarbell, who took down the Standard Oil monopoly; Ray Stannard Baker; Lincoln Steffens; and Willa Cather; the charismatic S.S. McClure designed a model general-interest publication of the Progressive Era featuring in-depth, biographical sketches of historical figures, of-the-moment newsworthy pieces, and literary works from luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Key to the magazine’s ultimate success, suggests Gorton, was McClure’s lively, temperamental personality and determination to position the magazine as a “cultural force.”
VERDICT Readers interested in Gilded Age history and its parallels to contemporary society will enjoy learning about this trailblazing publication.

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