This is no mere collection of exposés. It is a global look at the 20th-century writers who have dared to uncover stories of injustice and abuse.
Schiffrin (Media and Communications/Columbia Univ.; editor: Bad News: How America’s Business Press Missed the Story of the Century, 2011, etc.) literally dug through boxes of articles that disintegrated in her hands. Many of the included contributors suffered imprisonment or died at the hands of those they exposed. “This book is a collection of pieces that launched campaigns, exposed military atrocities, and called for justice for the downtrodden and the colonized,” writes the author. Each article includes an introduction and background information by carefully chosen journalists or activists well-informed and often deeply involved in the subject. The articles are especially noteworthy since the problems are indeed global, from the smallest villages in Africa to India, Colombia and New Zealand. Over the decades, a host of different writers have covered the same situations again and again. Schiffrin shows writings that span the entire 20th century, examining such situations as labor abuse, which has been evident in dozens of different locales across the world. Among the other topics are anti-colonialism, corruption, oil and mining, food shortages and famine, and military and police. What factors are required for these exposés to be effective? The author suggests that local interest and elite support is vital, as well as social movements pushing for reform; most importantly, wide media coverage brings the situation to the attention of the world. The collection begins with a 1904 article by E.D. Morel (introduced by Adam Hochschild), and other important contributors include Robin Hyde, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Alma Guillermoprieto and Christian Parenti.
The incredible amount of work that Schiffrin put into the selection of the articles and those who explain them makes this a top-notch anthology of significant journalism.