BOOK REVIEW: Modern Muckraking in the Age of the Internet

Modern Muckraking cover

With the advent of the Internet and widespread social media use, investigative journalism seems to be easier than ever before. Rather than having to physically go out and interview people who may or may not know anything about your person of interest, you can get straight to the point with a quick Google search, which you can verify with more concrete evidence. It seems to be harder than ever before for people to control their own public image, as there are billions of people constantly taking photos and videos and posting them on FacebookTwitterReddit, Tumblr and other social media sites. Gone are the days of anonymity and privacy.

Modern Muckraking: Journalism in the Age of the Internet was written by Stephen Engelberg as a response to the changing field of investigative journalism he saw emerging. Engelberg is a journalist and the founding manager editor of ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom that investigates public figures and events. He has a long history of success behind him, having been involved in four separate Pulitzer Prize winning articles.

As an investigative journalist, Stephen Engelberg has seen and done his fair share of digging into people’s pasts. Using his expertise to dissect different articles throughout the past few years, he analyzes the different approaches taken by the journalists who wrote particular stories that were featured over the past few years. His reviews of these articles are mostly critical, but they seem to have noble intent. It seems as though his ultimate goal is to provide constructive criticisms in order to better journalism as a whole. For example, Engelberg describes and pulls apart several styles of reporting, and describes the pros and cons of each one.

Engelberg covers a wide variety of stories and issues throughout the course of the book. His text is rich, and uses few words to truly cover some of the most important problems seen within the field of journalism. He does not criticize in a way that would offend practicing journalists. Rather, his criticisms are beneficial, and anyone who is truly serious about journalism and news telling would welcome his observation.

There is one frustrating element of this book, and this is mostly to do with the unfortunate title. While it is called “Modern Muckraking” not a single article covers the actual practice of muckraking in the age of the Internet. Investigative journalism is covered in depth, but Engelberg does not go into detail about how the age of the internet affects the accessibility of information that someone might want covered up. Perhaps if this book had a slightly different title, the reader wouldn’t feel cheated when they reached the end.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book, especially to anyone who is just beginning to enter the field of journalism. Engelberg’s criticisms allow journalists who are just starting out to see the emerging problems in journalism and prevent themselves from making the same mistakes.

The book is available in e-book form, downloadable from the ProPublica website or Barnes and Noble.

Categories: Book Reviews

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