A dazzling collection of some of the most significant examples of US investigative journalism of the past 250 years.
William Serrin (Journalism/NYU; Homestead, 1992) and former editor and reporter Judith Serrin present, with a compelling combination of virtuosic editing and dogged research, a reference of great impact. From Jacob Riis’s late–19th-century story on “How the Other Half Lives” to an eyewitness report of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire to Larry Kramer’s breaking story on AIDS to a transcript of the first TV report on the Ford/Firestone tire debacle, the authors serve up the high points of American reportage. Stories go as far back as a 1765 reaction to the Stamp Act, and are organized by such topics as “The Poor,” “Public Health and Safety,” “Politics,” “Muckraking,” “Sports,” “America at War,” “The Press,” and “Americana,” among others. A few paragraphs of context appear at the beginning and end of each piece: a 1952 Reader’s Digest article, “Cancer by the Carton,” for example, comes with the information that the publication took no advertising at the time and therefore was “immune to the considerable pressures of tobacco company advertisements, and became the only mainstream periodical to crusade against smoking.” Not every story bears the same moral weight: Tom Wolfe’s Esquire article on stock-car racing is cited as groundbreaking for its role in creating a new kind of journalism. Nonetheless, almost every piece demands to be read, and many retain their power to shock or stir—although in many cases the stories themselves and the issues raised are well-known, as are the decades, even centuries, of consequences that followed.
Wholly absorbing, intensely illuminating.