The Origin of the Term Muckrakers: President Theodore Roosevelt
The origin of the term 'Muckrakers' derives by a speech made in Washington D.C. by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 14, 1906.
"Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor
and it must be scraped up with the muck-rake; and there are times and places where this service
is the most needed, of all the services that can be performed..."
In his speech President Theodore Roosevelt was referring to a character, with a Muckrake in his hand, who was as described as a "man who seeks worldly gain by raking filth" in the 'Pilgrim's Progress' written by John Bunyan. The term 'Muckraker' was then used as a highly derogatory term to describe sensational and irresponsible journalists, novelists, and critics who attempted to expose corruption in politics, the abuses of business and social injustices. President Theodore Roosevelt both needed and applauded the journalists, but at the same time feared the excess of their over zealous, truth-telling passion. His view was expressed in the in "Cincinnati Enquirer" April 15, 1906 when Roosevelt was quoted as saying,
"The men with the muck-rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck".
Muckrakers for kids: Yellow Journalism
The Muckrakers were then closely associated with 'Yellow Journalism' the term that encapsulated the lurid articles that appeared in the circulation battles of the newspaper magnates between Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. Both papers used 'Yellow Journalism' and produced shocking, eye-catching headlines and sensationalism in order to drive up circulation. The scandalous elements and the crude exaggeration of 'Yellow Journalism' were also a feature of the popular 10 and 15 cent magazines such as Collier's Weekly, Everybody’s Magazine, Munsey's Magazine and McClure's Magazine which entered mass production in 1900. The term 'Yellow Journalism' was coined by Erwin Wardman, the editor of the New York Press following the publication of a yellow cartoon as an experiment in color printing designed to attract customers.
Muckrakers for kids
The serious, crusading 'Muckrakers' articulated Progressive ideas investigating and reporting on social conditions and political corruption in America but were tainted by the emergence and practice of 'Yellow Journalism' .
Muckrakers for kids - President Theodore Roosevelt Video
The article on the Muckrakers provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 26th American President whose presidency spanned from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909.