Chad Raphael (2005).

Investigated Reporting: Muckrakers, Regulators, and the Struggle over Television Documentary. (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press). 304 + x pp. ISBN 0-252-03010-9. $45.00 (hardbound). List of abbreviations, notes, index.

For those who are interested in the myriad relationships between content, ownership and regulation, or even those who merely believe that the documentary is both the highest form of television programming and the prime example of the "watchdog" function of journalism, this is a book for you. It even has a fascinating chapter on the confusingly-named "ethics of representation." Unfortunately, although clearly and even excitingly written, this volume may not be designed for the mass audience-47 pages of notes at the end may, however, satisfy even the most obsessive source junkie-but it is the kind of history book that provides the background and implicit hypotheses that anyone who is or hopes to be involved in investigative television reporting needs. It also will be both useful and fascinating to those interested in the philosophy of investigative reporting, the policies of governmental regulation, or the forces that affect our democracy. Specifically, it explores the relationship between journalism and regulation during American television's first (and, to date, only) sustained period of muckraking, between 1960 and 1975. Investigated Reporting uses many primary sources, including recently opened papers from the Nixon White House. It is too bad that there is no bibliography, per se, because the endnotes are in themselves a resource, albeit not intended for that purpose. And it is a remarkably complete resource: dissertations, journal articles, and monographs join with materials resting in numerous archives from California to Maryland. Neither the index nor the table of contents (there are only eight chapters) will make it easy for the reader to merely dip in and "cherry-pick" from this book. Instead, one must take the time to read the book thoroughly. However, if one is interested in documentation of political topics such as poverty and welfare, the Cold War, or business and consumerism, they can turn straightaway to chapters 1, 2, and 3-which together constitute more than half of the text. Part II, on representation, has two chapters ("dividing and distracting the media," and "the ethics of representation") and the third part concerns the politics and privatization of regulation and a final chapter titled "Media, State, and Investigative Reporting." Will this be the last word about a major leg of the platform on which today's broadcast journalism rests? Probably not-but for the best of reasons. I would expect an outstanding analytical synthesis such as Investigated Reporting to stimulate more research and interpretation in the future.


The above article was published in Media Ethics, Spring 2006 (17:2), p.35.