Today ProPublica’s Stephen Engelberg is joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin to talk about her new book, “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.”
The book centers on sketches of key figures in the Progressive Era, which gave rise to sweeping reform driven in large part by a new brand of investigative reporting that came to be known as “muckraking.” Coined as a derisive term by President Roosevelt – who was himself very friendly with the press – it came to be a badge of honor for journalists of the time.
Roosevelt courted reporters in his efforts to clean up corruption, Goodwin says, because “he recognized that they were the channel to the public, and without the public pressure, he couldn’t get through what he wanted to.”
“He has said before that the idea of trusts and monopolies was sort of abstract; it was hard to get the people to pay attention,” Goodwin continues. Because the muckrakers knew how to write narratively, the stories became a weapon to be used by the politicians like Roosevelt to push change. “Together, there’s no question, I think, that they pressured a Congress who would have bottled up these bills – once they got to the floor, they had to pass them, because the public demanded it. “