Muckraking was a powerful journalistic force, whose supporters made it become so. Muckraking was the practice of writers and critics exposing corrupt politicians and business practices. President Theodore Roosevelt made the term "muck-raker" popular. He once said
The man with the muck-rake, the man who could look no way but downward with the muck-rake in his hands; who was offered a celestial crown for his muckrake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake himself the filth of the floor.
Some, like Roosevelt viewed methods of muckrakers such as Ida Tarbell, Ray S. Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and Upton Sinclair as these types of people. Others saw these muckraking methods as perfectly acceptable for fighting against the industrial powerhouses. Either way, these muckrakers worked hard to arouse sentiment in the hearts of the public (Reiger 1).
Muckraking actually began long before the years of 1900-1902, when the muckraking movement is credited to have begun. Jesus was probably the first muckraker. Years later, Martin Luther exposed the corruptness of the Catholic Church. Also, early Abolitionist works--Stowe\'s Uncle Tom\'s Cabin and Helper\'s The Impending Crisis used muckraking to get a point across. However, events during the 1890s most directly paved the way for the critiques and exposures of existing conditions. This period was able to reach a limited upper class and the muckrakers were able to expand appeal to the average middle class citizen (Reiger 49-50).
One reason for the outspread of muckraking was the explosion of journalism. From 1870-1909 the number of daily newspapers circulated boomed from 574 to 2,600 and the number of subscribers from 2,800,000 to 24,800,000. With this increase, newspaper owners and editors needed new bait to reel in its subscribers. The newspaper editors wanted to replace ordinary town gossip with gossip about the latest events of the city. Therefore, in newspapers they placed the most shocking events and kept the rural mind drooling for more. As newspaper circulation grew, the large newspaper depended much less on political parties and could now even challenge them. Newspapers played on the new human interest, the concern of the wealthy with the affairs of those below them, status-wise. This "story of the poor" became the basic outline for muckraking (Hofstadter 185-188).
This new concern of the public demanded more from reporters. Reporters had to dig up exposs and human-interest stories. However, reporters received more and more notice from the public eye. A reporter\'s job was becoming more and more glamorous and held the aspirations of a growing number of young. As this occurred, those of education and those of culture sought out the reporter\'s field (Hofstadter 189-190).
As newspapers saw a radical change, magazines observed one as well. Previous magazines received limited audiences and were run by literary men. The new magazines, emerging in 1900 were run by business promoters and reached audiences ranging from 400,000 to 1,000,000. They took a turn away from literature and began writing what greatly resembled news. These magazines, many of which by accident, began producing muckraking articles. One of the most significant of these muckraking magazines was McClure\'s. Others included Hampton\'s and Pearson\'s. Magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Collier\'s produced some muckraking articles, but were not muckraking magazines in themselves (Hofstadter 190-191).
McClure\'s magazine had already built a very reasonably sized circulation through popular fiction and historical representation. Ida Tarbell, the most popular reporter of the magazine, investigated Standard Oil originally as a way of honoring this great American business. However, Tarbell started to discover the unhappiness of the workers. She decided to research more deeply into the Standard Oil Company. Her research provided her with the story of a company whose ideas were based on "primary privileges." These primary privileges allowed the company to operate under special permission, but more importantly operate immorally. This investigation was eventually printed in 1902 and is now considered the work that started the muckraking era (Reiger 121-125).
Besides writing her "History of the Standard Oil Company," Ida Tarbell wrote many other muckraking works. She followed the Standard Oil Company saga to write two articles on how the company affected Kansas and two articles on Rockefeller himself. Tarbell eventually left McClure\'s magazine because of a disagreement in business policy and formed the American with other former members of the McClure\'s staff.