Nellie Bly “Nellie Bly Goes Undercover”(1887)

The New York World

“Nellie Bly Goes Undercover” These excerpts are from a series of articles that the flamboyant journalist Nellie Bly published in the New York World in 1887. To build readership for The World, Bly’s editor convinced the twenty-year-old journalist (whose real name was Elizabeth Cochran) to permit herself to be committed for one week to Blackwell’s Island, a notorious insane asylum in New York City. From this vantage point Bly reported–undercover–on the conditions endured by the asylum’s patients. In an age in which relatively few middle-class women worked outside the home at all, let alone in the rough-and-tumble world of journalism, Bly stood out. Although Bly was not the first reporter to assume a false identity, her reporting did much to popularize undercover reporting as a journalistic technique. Go here to view article

 

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W. Joseph Campbell (2017)

The Washington Post

“After the ‘Cronkite Moment,’ LBJ doubled down on Viet policy” The cherished tale/media myth is commonly known as the “Cronkite Moment” of 1968, when CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite supposedly exposed the bankruptcy of the Vietnam War. Forty-nine years ago next week, Cronkite declared in an unusual editorial comment at the close of a special report that the U.S. military was “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam and said negotiations might offer the country a way out. Go here to view article

 

Karl Marx “Dispatches for the New York Tribune: Selected Journalism of Karl Marx” (1848)

The New York Tribune

“Dispatches for the New York Tribune: Selected Journalism of Karl Marx” Karl Marx (1818-83) is certainly best known for his collaboration with Friedrich Engels that culminated in The Communist Manifesto (1848) and for Capital (1867), his incomplete study of capitalism as an ultimately unstable system. Yet Marx was also one of the most important foreign correspondents of the 19th century. From 1852-1861 and while in exile in London, Marx wrote for The New York Tribune and other periodicals, covering topics ranging from the Chinese Opium trade, to mental illness in Great Britain, to the British and American slave trades. Marx was unable to make a livable income as a journalist and remained financially dependent upon Engels during the entire period he was a foreign correspondent.

The New York Tribune

Edgar Allan Poe “Wood Pavements” (1845)

Evening Mirror [New York]

“Wood Pavements” Though Edgar Allen Poe is best known for his haunting short stories, at various points in his life he supported himself as a reporter. Several of his best-known short stories–including “Murders in the Rue Morgue”– were based on newspaper accounts of horrific events. This short story, for example, drew its inspiration from the coverage of the murder of Mary Celia Rogers in the New York Herald. Go here to view article

Mark Twain “The San Francisco Letter” (1865)

The Territorial Enterprise [Virginia City, Nevada]

“The San Francisco Letter” Before Samuel Clemens became the celebrated author Mark Twain (1835-1910) he had been a reporter. Clemens left Missouri for the Far West early in the Civil War to escape military service, and, after failing to strike it rich as a miner, turned to journalism to make ends meet. This link includes three stories; please concentrate on the third, “The Spirit of the Local Press,” and think about what it says about the life of the reporter. Go here to view article

 

Thomas Morris Chester “The Fall of Richmond” (1865)

Philadelphia Press

“The Fall of Richmond” Chester reported on the Civil War in Virginia throughout the last year of fighting and accompanied a unit of black soldiers who were among the first Union troops to enter the Confederate capital of Richmond after it fell. A free black born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he was the only African-American to report on the war for a mainstream daily.

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Walker Evans “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (text by James Agee) [photographs]” (1941)

“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (text by James Agee) [photographs]” In the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s, photojournalist Walker Evans and reporter James Agee spent many months chronicling the lives of three impoverished families in rural Alabama. The book that they published–Let Us Now Praise Famous Men–brought to widespread public notice the horrific conditions in which many Americans were then living. Evans and Agee had originally been commissioned to report on rural poverty for Fortune, an innovative business magazine well known for its patronage of top-flight reporters. When their research outgrew the magazine’s format, they published it as a book. In the years since its publication, a debate has raged about whether Evans’s haunting photographs were informative or exploitative. Go here to view photographs