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Investigated Reporting

Investigated Reporting: Muckrakers, Regulators, and the Struggle over Television Documentary

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Investigated Reporting
    Book Description:

    Investigated Reporting is Chad Raphael's ambitious exploration of the relationship between journalism and regulation during American television's first sustained period of muckraking, between 1960 and 1975. Offering new and important insights into the economic, political, and industrial forces that shaped documentaries such as Harvest of Shame, Hunger in America, and Banks and the Poor, Raphael puts investigative television documentary into its institutional, regulatory, and cultural context. _x000B_Those who see investigative reporting as a watchdog on government will be surprised to find that these controversial reports relied heavily on official sources for inspiration, information, and regulatory protection from muckraking's critics. Based on superb historical research using primary sources, including recently opened papers from the Nixon White House, Raphael exposes the complex play of influence through which investigative documentaries were both shaped and attacked by government officials, and highlights the troubling legacy for contemporary regulation of television news. _x000B__x000B__x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09220-6
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-14)

    Classical liberal theorists of the media’s role in democracy, from John Locke to Thomas Paine, saw journalism’s primary mission as serving as a watchdog on government, by checking abuses of power, exposing corruption, and giving citizens the information they need to manage public affairs. The inheritors of this vision often hold up investigative reporting as the best example of the media’s ability to maintain government’s accountability to the public. In this view, investigative journalism is also the main reason to free the media from regulation, which inevitably threatens to mute journalistic criticism of government.¹ This book examines the spread of...


    • 1 Investigating Poverty and Welfare
      (pp. 17-61)

      Some of the most controversial documentaries of the 1960s peered behind the image of America’s postwar affluence to gaze at the lives of the poor. Three reports on poverty were most extensively investigated by government forces:Harvest of Shame(CBS, 1960),The Battle of Newburgh(NBC, 1962), andHunger in America(CBS, 1968). Journalists and television critics often cite these documentaries as milestones of network muckraking.¹ Yet all three documentaries, and the conflicts they engendered, emerged primarily from intragovernmental struggles over antipoverty policy. To be sure, citizen groups, particularly those associated with the labor and civil rights movements, influenced public...

    • 2 Investigating the Cold War
      (pp. 62-105)

      As noted in the introduction, the dramatic growth of network documentary in the early 1960s was identified with gaining public consent for the Kennedy administration’s activist foreign policy. The New Frontiersmen and network journalists made the global competition between communism and capitalism a central documentary topic. These reports, officials hoped, would cure Americans of their isolationism and teach them of the need for world leadership. However, foreign affairs documentaries, at first broadly championed by government, corporate, and media elites, became an increasing source of friction between them. Some documentaries provoked official concern not because they challenged policy but because television...

    • 3 Investigating Business and Consumerism
      (pp. 106-140)

      Broadcast news critics often attacked reports that turned a critical lens on business’s treatment of consumers in the 1960s and early 1970s. The era was marked by a rising consumer politics and a special relationship between the news media and consumer advocates in government, social movements, and the professions. Business moved to protect its image from the challenge of consumerism and media coverage of it. The conflicts that emerged can be seen in the origins, framings, and impacts of the two most heavily investigated muckraking reports on consumer issues:Banks and the Poor(PBS, 1970) andPensions: The Broken Promise...


    • 4 Dividing and Distracting the Media
      (pp. 143-161)

      The impact of investigative reporting on policy and public opinion depends in part on how the rest of the news media react to muckraking stories and any countercharges they provoke. The news media provide the main public forum for subsequent discussion of issues raised by investigative reporters. The media can keep a story alive and build momentum for reform by treating investigative reports as credible, repeating their charges, engaging in further investigation of them, and offering space for like-minded speakers to confirm their analysis of problems and offer policy solutions. Or the news media help kill stories and block change...

    • 5 The Ethics of Representation
      (pp. 162-188)

      By the timeThe Selling of the Pentagoncame under fire in 1971, attacks on investigative documentaries had assumed regular enough patterns that former CBS News president Fred Friendly compiled a mock five-step “demolition manual” for use by the aggrieved. It involved enlisting sympathetic federal politicians to decry a report, planting editorials in industry trade papers and approaching columnists in the mainstream press, organizing letter-writing campaigns to the Congress and the FCC, raising questions about television’s production techniques to distract from its charges, and organizing pressure on the documentary’s sponsor (a less effective effort since the early 1960s, he admitted,...


    • 6 The Politics of Regulation
      (pp. 191-218)

      In the 1960s and 1970s, the investigative documentary became a crucial battleground in struggles over regulating television news content as old and new actors in the policy process challenged the networks.¹ Yet the FCC consistently protected broadcasting against its critics, as did some within Congress and the judiciary. If previous chapters have shown how television muckrakers were by no means hostile to government in the abstract, this chapter demonstrates that government was not uniformly adversarial to the media.

      Controversial investigative reports’ most profound influence on government was not on welfare, consumer, or foreign policy, but on broadcast regulation of news’s...

    • 7 The Privatization of Regulation
      (pp. 219-235)

      Despite the many investigations of investigative reporting, the regulatory regime of the 1960s and early 1970s provided rich soil for the growth of television muckraking. Regulators’ demands for public-service programming helped prompt the networks and local stations to plow resources into substantive reporting, including in-depth documentaries. Regulatory protection of networks and licensees from greater competition within broadcast markets and from competing technologies such as cable television ensured that broadcasters had the resources to spend on expensive and risky news programming while taking home record profits. When critics attacked the fairness and accuracy of muckraking, FCC rulings helped shelter broadcasters from...

    • 8 Media, State, and Investigative Reporting
      (pp. 236-248)

      In the early 1960s, the rising television documentary was buoyed by widespread elite support from political leaders, regulators, cultural critics, network executives, and journalists. By the mid-1970s, that consensus had fractured. What do the growing elite conflicts over the documentary at this time tell us about theories of media-state relations, the construction and impact of investigative reporting, and the media’s role in society? This chapter draws conclusions about claims of media adversarialism toward government, about how muckraking is assembled and how its critics attempt to subvert its legitimacy, and about critical theory of the news media and democracy.

      Theories of...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 249-296)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 297-304)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-308)