What exactly is the distinction between muckrakers and yellow journalists? The presentation of material distinguishes muckraking from yellow journalism. During the Spanish American Fight, for example, "yellow journalism" was utilized to misrepresent the realities of the war in order to increase the attractiveness of their publication. As part of this strategy, authors of yellow journalism would often take advantage of popular culture at the time (movies, music) to enhance the perception of their publications as sensationalistic.
Muckraking is defined as "the pursuit of public interest without regard to expense or political influence." This type of journalism is rooted in the belief that truth will ultimately prevail, and thus exposure of wrong-doing is important for maintaining social justice. Muckrakers use various means, such as investigative reporting, undercover work, and advocacy, to uncover information about issues that need to be brought to light.
Some examples of muckraking include: Edward L. Bernays's investigation into the effects of smoking on health (which led to the creation of the Federal Cigarette Labeling Act); Ida Tarbell's exposure of corruption within the oil industry which helped inspire many Americans to vote for Roosevelt (who was not actually involved in the muckraking process), Sherwood Anderson's report on poverty in Chicago's South Side which prompted Congress to pass legislation creating federal aid for states with impoverished populations.
Similarly to how muckrakers became well-known for their crusades, journalists from the eras of "personal journalism" and "yellow journalism" rose to prominence through investigative stories, especially those that revealed wrongdoing. It's worth noting that the goal of Yellow Journalism was to enrage the people with sensationalism in order to sell more papers. Thus, it's accurate to say that this type of journalism brought about anger among the public because of the many false reports and unsubstantiated claims that were spread across newspapers during this time.
Muckraking was first used by American journalists as a term to describe the work of individuals who exposed corruption and other injustice in society. However, it was William Randolph Hearst who popularized the use of the term muckraking outside of America when he hired leading muckrakers like I. N. Phelps Stokes and Lincoln Steffens to write for his newspaper The San Francisco Examiner. These men exposed unsavory details about the city's politics and business culture which helped make San Francisco a more dangerous place to live by adding more police officers on the streets and promoting bills into law that would have made it easier to shoot robbers in self-defense.
The term yellow journalism was coined after newspapers started using color printing techniques for their articles. Before this technology was developed, each article had to be printed in black and white due to limited colors available at the time. Publications used these colors to attract readers by making news seem more exciting and current.
Muckraking journalists do not go too far in their pursuit of their stories since they are utilizing their positions to expose the flaws of the government, big business, and society; this is helpful to the American people. Muckrakers write about what they know and expose it since that is what journalism is all about.
Muckraking is considered by many to be a dirty word today, but that isn't true historically. John B. Watson, one of the founders of behaviorism, called muckrakers "the most useful body of men that America has produced." Charles Darwin said of William Darwin MacHaffie, one of his favorite scientists: "His clear common sense and moral courage made him greatly beloved by everyone who knew him." And Thomas Edison called muckrakers "our foremost experts on public affairs."
There are several reasons why muckraking is important for today's society. First of all, it helps to hold officials accountable. During the Gilded Age, when money was becoming more important than merit in hiring practices, employees were able to point out illegal or unethical activities that their employers were doing. This enabled them to get rid of such employees rather than discipline them which would cause them to lose their job security. By revealing these activities, muckrakers created a culture where ethics and honesty were valued.
Secondly, muckraking allows individuals to express themselves.