In this article Witwer describes the emergence in the 1930s of a group of reporters employed by the mainstream media whose careers centered on covering labor. They claimed a distinct approach to writing about working Americans and organized labor. The most prominent early member of the “labor beat,” Louis Stark, promoted a model of journalism that fostered a better understanding of unions and workers by the general public. The labor beat expanded in the 1930s in response to turbulent strike waves and the dramatic growth of unions. Labor beat reporters developed sources within the working-class community and union leadership, from local officials to the top executives of the labor federations. While many newspaper publishers held antipathetic views of organized labor in this era, they found it in their interest to employ labor beat reporters because it bolstered their circulation and provided a chance to wield political influence with working-class voters. By the 1940s and 1950s, another wing of the labor beat emerged that focused on exposing union corruption and left-wing influence on organized labor. Pieces by Westbrook Pegler and Victor Riesel were prominent examples of this kind of journalism, and the influence of this exposé brand of journalism on public opinion regarding unions undercut the initial promise of the labor beat.
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David Witwer; The Heyday of the Labor Beat. Labor 1 May 2013; 10 (2): 9–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-2071679
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