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The Evolution of American Investigative JournalismThe Evolution of American Investigative Journalism

James L. Aucoin

Narrated by Gary Roelofs

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Missouri Press

Beginning with America’s first newspaper, investigative reporting has provided journalism with its most significant achievements and challenging controversies. Yet it was an ill-defined practice until the 1960s when it emerged as a potent voice in newspapers and on television news programs. In The Evolution of American Investigative Journalism, James L. Aucoin provides readers with the first comprehensive history of investigative journalism, including a thorough account of the founding and achievements of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).

Aucoin begins by discussing in detail the tradition of investigative journalism from the colonial era through the golden age of muckraking in the 1900s, and into the 1960s. Subsequent chapters examine the genre’s critical period from 1960 to 1975 and the founding of IRE by a group of journalists in the 1970s to promote investigative journalism and training methods. Through the organization’s efforts, investigative journalism has evolved into a distinct practice, with defined standards and values.

Aucoin applies the social-moral development theory of Alasdair MacIntyre—who has explored the function, development, and value of social practices—to explain how IRE contributed to the evolution of American investigative journalism. Also included is a thorough account of IRE’s role in the controversial Arizona Project. After Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles (a founding member of IRE) was murdered while investigating land fraud, scores of reporters from around the country descended on the area to continue his work. The Arizona Project brought national attention and stature to the fledgling IRE and was integral to its continuing survival.

Emerging investigative reporters and editors, as well as students and scholars of journalism history, will benefit from the detailed presentation and insightful discussion provided in this book.

James L. Aucoin is Associate Professor of Communications at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. He is the author of Water in Nebraska: Uses, Politics, Policies.


The Evolution of American Investigative Journalism is well researched, soundly grounded in theory, well organized, and compellingly written. Most important, it is historiography that exemplifies excellent story telling.”

—Fred Blevens, coauthor of The Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People’s Journalism

“Little has been written about twentieth-century investigative reporting other than the turn-of-the century muckrakers and, to a lesser degree, the literary journalism that became popular in the 1960s. Therefore, this much needed text fills a historical hole of significant proportion, and it brings as much attention to media function as it does to media history.”

—Lloyd Chiasson, author and editor of Three Centuries of American Media

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University Press Audiobooks
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University Press Audiobooks