cover image THE PEN IS MIGHTIER: The Muckraking Life of Charles Edward Russell

THE PEN IS MIGHTIER: The Muckraking Life of Charles Edward Russell

Robert Miraldi, . . Palgrave, $32.50 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-29292-8

In Russell, Miraldi has found a rare subject: a man of large historical importance about whom very little has been written. Russell's accomplishments as a muckraking journalist and social activist in many ways surpass those of his better-known colleagues, but this is the first biography of him. Russell (1860–1941) followed in the footsteps of his father, a newspaper editor in Davenport, Iowa. Over the course of his life, he attacked Iowa's railroad monopolies, took on Chicago's meat-packing industry and helped force Hugh McLaughlin, Brooklyn's version of Boss Tweed, from power. Miraldi, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, admirably focuses on Russell's professional and political development, but excludes most personal details. When Russell was 42, his wife died and he suffered a nervous breakdown, leaving his job as editor of the Chicago American. Miraldi provides few details about these events, using them merely as transition to explain why Russell began writing for magazines. Russell joined the Socialist Party, ran for governor of New York, helped launch the NAACP and, breaking with the Socialist Party, took the lead in warning the nation of German aggression before WWI. As a newspaperman, Russell became a protégé first of Joseph Pulitzer and then of William Randolph Hearst and learned to gauge and shape public opinion. This influence required some compromises, including serving as a distributor of the Hearst brand of yellow journalism, but Russell offered no apologies. "Russell simply felt that Hearst was doing what was logical and necessary...: making money in order to give his newspaper influence." (Feb.)