Journalism and Public Relations Department Members Attend Modern Muckrakers Symposium

Posted on 9/30/2016 11:50:03 AM

Two members of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations Department attended a September 27–28 symposium on investigative journalism in Titusville, the historic and picturesque Northwestern Pennsylvania town that grew up with the development of the first commercial oil well drilled on nearby Oil Creek in 1859. The town was home to legendary investigative reporter Ida Tarbell, in whose memory the event was held.

“Symposium on Investigative Journalism, Past & Present: Ida Tarbell and Modern Muckrakers” met on and around the campus of the University of Pittsburgh–Titusville.

Ethan C. Brogan, a senior journalism major from Pittsburgh, attended with journalism professor David Loomis, PhD. Brogan is a reporter for and Loomis the editor of the investigative online newspaper the HawkEye.

Conference presenters testified to the meticulous reporting by the legendary muckraking journalist. Tarbell’s written work was based on what one speaker described as “a reliance on overwhelming fact,” drawing a parallel to this year’s presidential election campaign.  

Tarbell’s serialized reporting on the business of robber baron John D. Rockefeller led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 1911 that his Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey was an illegal trust—a monopoly. The ruling broke up one of the world’s earliest and largest multinational conglomerates.

Tarbell’s muckraking methods were discussed at the conference. Her Standard Oil series was combined into a book; unabridged and abridged editions remain in print today, more than a century after their publication.

And so are books by other authors drawn to investigative journalism. Among those who presented on Wednesday was keynote speaker Kathleen Brady, of New York City, whose 1984 Tarbell biography, Portrait of a Muckraker, was cited as authoritative.

Brady expressed appreciation for an investigative story Brogan worked on for the online newspaper the HawkEye.

“This expose of terrible, casual injustice is a merciless presentation of facts,” Brady said. “And it is so well-written that is it a pleasure to read.”

About a hundred high-school and college students attended the symposium. Speakers numbered 15, including journalists representing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; the Newseum in Washington, D.C.; authors, scholars, and a Theodore Roosevelt impersonator. 

Sponsors included the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The IUP Journalism and Public Relations Department’s Elizabeth Ray Sweeney Trust supported the attendance of Brogan and Loomis.