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Downie, himself once a reporter for the Washington Post, here sets out to investigate the investigators. Calling them a ""new breed"" of journalist--not seen since the days of Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens--Downie characterizes Woodward and Bernstein (""the Stardust Twins""), Sy Hersh, and other lesser-known muckrakers as brash, aggressive, bright, hard-working, and youthful. In general, he proceeds biographically and episodically, following Hersh's digging on My Lai, CIA domestic spying, etc., as each piece of the story falls into place. Others profiled include the Miami Herald team of Mike Baxter and Jim Savage who uncovered Florida FHA scandals which led them to campaign pay-offs and the eventual indictment of Sen. Edward J. Gurney. Downie, himself not an exciting writer, casts his net wide to take in such exposÉ-oriented periodicals as Ramparts. Washington Monthly, and New Times, and veteran probers I. F. Stone and Nation editor Carey McWilliams (who boosted the careers of Hunter Thompson and Robert Sherrill). He ponders the overlap between ""New Journalism"" and muckraking, finding the former too often self-indulgent and sloppy. The question of whether the muckrakers might precipitate a backlash or just begin to bore the public isn't pursued very far. Sporadically interesting but without a cutting edge or a defined thesis.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1976
Publisher: New Republic Book Co.