Lincoln Steffens’s fame rests on his muckraking journalistic work which he was doing with great enthusiasm for about thirteen years. In this chapter, I will provide an overview of Steffens’s collections of muckraking articles and then I will focus on the most prominent one, The Shame of the Cities. This collection was motivated by Steffens’s effort to raise the Americans’ awareness of omnipresent corruption. It presented a number of concrete cases of corruption and I assume that it served the intended purpose. However, not only its social and political effect but also its literary style can be examined. The tone of this work helped Steffens attract attention to its message because it contained literary features that entertained its readers.
Lincoln Steffens became famous in the first decade of the twentieth century for a series of muckraking articles scrutinizing corruption at the municipal, state and federal levels, bringing new revelations, and fulfilling readers’ expectations of entertaining literature. Cochran specifies that Steffens was active as a muckraking journalist from 1902 to 1915 (102). Kaplan notes that Steffens started his muckraking career with “Tweed Days in St. Louis” (1902), the first article of the series on municipal corruption. Steffens openly referred to himself as the first muckraker (97). He said in his later years: “I started our political muckraking” (qtd. in Kaplan 97). Weinberg and Weinberg confirm that Steffens showed a firm conviction that he was the first muckraker. In his autobiography, he placed a caption to a picture of his article “Tweed Days in St. Louis”reading “the first muckraking article” (xxii). Kaplan admits that Steffens was not the only one to hold this opinion although the issue of who can be declared to be the very first muckraker has been disputed (97).
Pomeroy mentions thatSteffens’s magazine articles on municipal corruption were collected in the books The Shame of the Cities (1904) and The Struggle for Self-Government (1906) (xix). As Pomeroy further explains, another book by Steffens called Upbuilders (1909) is a collection of articles in which Steffens introduces and portrays five important reformers of his day who were trying to fight “the system” (xxi). The books epitomize muckraking of the first decade of the twentieth century, and it is these books that Lincoln Steffens is mainly remembered for.
The Shame of the Cities,originally published by McClure, Phillips & Co. in March 1904, is a collection of seven articles in which Lincoln Steffens scrutinizes municipal corruption in the cities of St. Louis, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York. The individual articles (“Tweed Days in St. Louis,” “The Shame of Minneapolis,” “The Shamelessness of St. Louis,” “Pittsburg: A City Ashamed,” “Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented,” “Chicago: Half Free and Fighting On,” and “New York: Good Government to the Test”) were originally published as a series in McClure’s magazine between October 1902 and November 1903.
Steffens had been fascinated by corruption for some time and the chance to devote his time to studying corruption was a pleasant connection of duty and personal interest. However, he did not have a free hand in every aspect of his work. As Young notes, S. S. McClure, the editor of McClure’s, had a clear vision of the direction his magazine should be steered. McClure had the final word in regard to what was to be published and in which form. His intention was to produce a magazine that was entertaining, exciting and cheap, and that reached a wide audience (Young). In addition, as Kaplan observes, McClure was used to seek topics for new articles on his own and to assign his journalists with articles that he considered interesting for the readership and thus profit-making. As a result, Steffens could not choose freely what he would cover. For example, after Steffens had finished his article about Philadelphia, McClure ordered him to go on to explore the government in Chicago instead of Boston where Steffens had planned to go next (115). As a consequence of these factors, while the articles in The Shame of the Cities are pieces of journalism written by Lincoln Steffens, they were to some degree influenced by Steffens’s editor and potential readers. The literary style of the book can be traced to this influence, and will be dealt with later. Kaplan and Jensen agree upon the fact that the book was the key stepping stone for Steffens to the career of a distinguished journalist (97; 41). Aucoin marks the book as the “highlight of his [Steffens’s] career” (129). In my opinion, The Shame of the Cities, apart from The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens,has remained the most famous piece of writing by Steffens due to which he has been credited as the leading muckraker.
Lincoln Steffens had several reasons to write The Shame of the Cities. One of them was his personal interest in corruption and in the patterns of social behavior. Steffens was driven by a desire to find “the actual fundamental motives of all conduct” (qtd. in Kaplan 32). Kaplan suggests that this motivated Steffens to study the governments of cities (32). Corruption obviously was an example of human behavior that was determined by specific motives. Further, the articles were a chance to win recognition. Steffens hoped that he could become an accomplished journalist if he made a success of his reports on misgovernment of cities. He admitted to Ida Tarbell: “If I should be entrusted with the work . . . , I think I could make my name” (qtd. in Kaplan 90).
Both of the personal incentives that I have mentioned above were certainly important for Steffens. However, there was also his belief that the creation of such a text could contribute to the public good. He intended to make the public aware of misdeeds and injustices occurring in the American society. In the introduction to The Shame of the Cities, he describes why he actually wrote the series and why it was republished as a collection. He asserts that although published in book form, the articles remain journalism and are
[his] accounts as a reporter of the shame of American cities. They were written with a purpose, they were published serially with a purpose, and they are reprinted now together to further that same purpose, which was and is—to sound for the civic pride of an apparently shameless citizenship. (3)
Steffens expressed his doubts that the people of the United States sought for good government (9), and his revelation concerning the American character: “The people are not innocent. That is the only ‘news’ in all the journalism of these articles, and no doubt that was not new to many observers. It was to me” (Steffens 14). Hence, one of the aims of the articles was to reveal the true nature of the US citizens. He tried to draw their attention to their own faults and to make them admit to themselves that they had failed as citizens: “We are responsible, not our leaders, since we follow them. We let them divert our loyalty from the United States to some ‘party’ . . .” (Steffens 11). Another goal of the series was to expose misdeeds committed by bosses and businessmen. Steffens blamed the dismal conditions of the American society on the country’s business spirit which penetrated all spheres of people’s activity (5). By exposure of both the citizens’ and businessmen’s wrong behavior, Steffens meant to give an account of the state of affairs in the United States.
As he admits in the introduction to The Shame of the Cities, he proceeded as a journalist. He picked the best illustrating examples and did not include all the facts that he could have. This strategy helped him point out what he considered the biggest wrongs in the system (17). Concerning his own judgment of the facts presented by him, Steffens writes: “I was not judging; I arrogated to myself no such function. I was not writing about Chicago for Chicago, but for the other cities, so I picked out what light each had for the instruction of the others” (Steffens 17). Steffens’s objective was to bring facts, but not to explicitly give his opinion about them. Nevertheless, he chose to offer such facts that would provide advice to those who would be willing to learn their lesson from them: “My purpose . . . was . . . to see if the shameful facts, spread out in all their shame, would not burn through our civic shamelessness and set fire to American pride. . . . I wanted to move and to convince” (Steffens 18).
When exploring bribery and misgovernment in each of the cities, Steffens focused on a specific kind of misconduct which was typical of the city. By doing so, he exposed a range of illegal practices occurring in the cities. Thus, as Steffens explains, the local bosses and boodle are his main objects in “Tweed Days in St. Louis,” while he concentrates on the citizens and police corruption in “The Shame of Minneapolis.” In “The Shamelessness of St. Louis,” a sequel to “Tweed Days in St. Louis,” he depicts the story in more detail while having in mind the citizens’ involvement in the system. In “Pittsburg: A City Ashamed,” Steffens deals with vice and political and industrial corruption, with the people as the subject. “Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented” illustrates general civic corruption, whereas “Chicago: Half Free and Fighting on” serves as an example of reform. “New York: Good Government to the Test,” as the title reveals, epitomizes good government (15-16). To sum up, Steffens compiled such a set of facts speaking about the citizens, politicians and businessmen that would not offer direct solutions but would persuade the Americans to ponder certain solutions on their own. Regarding his career, Steffens’s hopes that the series would make him famous were justified. The publication of The Shame of the Cities marked a turning point in his career.
As to the significance of The Shame of the Cities, ithas been questioned by some scholars because Steffens did not attempt to find any solutions to the political and social problems, and because his reports have been considered as not thorough and objective enough. In spite of these objections to his book, I believe that Steffens did make a contribution to the society for two reasons. First, he influenced the public of his time. He made the people ponder over the complexity of misgovernment and corruption. He drew attention to it because he presented the facts with great enthusiasm and because he persuaded the public that his work was based on thorough study of the urban environment. Second, The Shame of the Cities has served as a source of facts to scholars investigating the history and politics of the first two decades of the twentieth century as well as to those dealing with other disciplines such as sociology.
Some scholars have raised objections to Steffens’s objectivity in the depiction of the cities. Sanford points to Steffens’s proneness to admire the bosses and calls his study of corruption “supposedly ‘empirical’” (306). Kaplan adds that The Shame of the Cities exemplifies the journalism of its time by “the historically invalidated distinctions it makes between bosses and reformers, the machine and good government, and . . . its moralistic view of ‘corruption’ . . .” (121). Dudden points out that Steffens came to the right conclusions in “Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented” although he did not base them on the right assumptions. Accordingly, he did not take into account many popular American trends such as the role of state and national politics in municipal government (458). However, the documentation and presentation of the facts is convincing enough to have won appreciation of some of Steffens’s contemporaries as well as some of his reviewers and scholars who have dealt with his articles decades later. As Kaplan states, Steffens did not indicate any solutions (121). Nevertheless, William Allen White4appreciated this in his review of The Shame of the Cities where he stated: “[T]he best thing about it is that . . . it merely presents facts, without trying to form theories about them . . . , with no reforms to promise or suggest . . .” (qtd. in Pomeroy xxiii; ellipses in orig.). It seems White was convinced that, most of all, the Americans needed to get the plain facts in order to realize what action was appropriate to take in order to defeat corruption.
What appears to be the main value of The Shame of the Cities is its aptness and capability to draw a new picture of the conditions in the United States. Cohen claims that “The Shame of the Cities . . . was a collection of municipal portraits unlike any America had ever seen” (Cohen). Steffens tried to dispel some popular myths established in the urban society. As Cohen observes, one of the myths of the first years of the twentieth century was that government corruption was mainly caused by immigrants and the poor (Cohen). Steffens contradicted this opinion when writing that “[t]he ‘foreign element’ excuse is one of the hypocritical lies that save us from the clear sight of ourselves” (Steffens 5). However, that corruption only functioned at the local level was probably the greatest myth that Steffens destroyed. Jensen considers the display of corruption as a national problem to be one of the key contributions of the book (41). In consequence of The Shame of the Cities, the Americans could compare what they witnessed in their own cities with events in other cities. According to McCormick, Steffens admitted that a great deal of the corruption he showed in The Shame of the Cities had been revealed before at the local level. This time, Steffens collected facts in several cities, reformulated them in a more attractive style, and unveiled to the nation the reality that bribery was functioning across the whole country (265). Henry Jones Ford confirmed this view in his article Municipal Corruption published in December 1904. He declared: “Mr. Steffens has really done no more than to put together material lying about loose upon the surface of municipal politics and give it effective presentation. The general truth of his statement of the case is indisputable” (676).
Some of the popular figures of the turn of the twentieth century commented on how Steffens had proceeded and praised his innovative attitude. Medill McCormick5 said: “Nothing has been printed which so well portrays municipal conditions in America” (qtd. in Kaplan 120). William Allen White declared that “[u]ntil very recently no one thought it worth while to go out into the wards and precincts of the towns and townships of this land and bring in specimens of actual government under actual conditions” (qtd. in Kaplan 120). He went on to say that Steffens took “an important step in the scientific study of government in America” (qtd. in Pomeroy xxiii).
Not only the facts but also the style and fervor with which Steffens made his point have spoken to the readers. Steffens has been praised for his “careful documentation and high-toned prose” (Paterson 59) as well as “the centrality of the problems as Steffens stated them . . . , the clarity of his analysis and the elegance of his demonstrations, and . . . the fervor both of his argument and of his commitment to advocacy” (Kaplan 121). In his review of “Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented,”Dudden declares that Steffens’s “flair for expressing the mood of popular indignation against the excesses of business and democracy’s shortcomings was unequalled. He was unsurpassed in his ability to sum up in a few words for his countrymen what it was they had discovered to be unspeakably odious in their midst”(Dudden 458). The Shame of the Cities met with a positive reception at the time of its publication, too. A review called “Municipal Misrule,” published in The New York Times in April 1904, said that the introductionto the book was “eloquent and excellent” and the whole book was “exceedingly well worth reading, for, whether you agree with him or not, Mr. Steffens has ideas which command attention” (New York Times). James Bryce6said that he read Steffens’s book with “mingled feelings of admiration for the vigor and directness with which he tells his story and of regret to have such a story told” (qtd. in Kaplan 120). Brand Whitlock7 expressed his view at the end of the progressive era that what Steffens achieved with the book “has never been equaled” and it “had a noble and splendid part in the great awakening of our time” (qtd. in Kaplan 121).
During my research, I did not find many statements by scholars or Steffens’s contemporaries that criticized The Shame of the Cities to a large extent. The book tends to be accepted positively for the most part. In this regard, one can ask the question how those involved in corruption reacted to the book. The only representative of the political machine whose statement about the book I found is George Washington Plunkitt, a leader in Tammany Hall.8 He said about Steffens’s opinions on corruption expressed in The Shame of the Cities: “Steffens means well but, like all reformers, he don’t know how to make distinctions. He can’t see no difference between honest graft and dishonest graft and, consequent, he gets things all mixed up” (sic; qtd. in Kaplan 120).
I suggest that Lincoln Steffens did not only contribute to the society in his day. The Shame of the Cities has been cited by scholars in various fields of study such as history, political science and sociology until these days. It is a source of contemporary testimonies and information about how municipal government and corruption worked at the turn of the twentieth century in the American cities. In order to illustrate how The Shame of the Cities has been used as a source for scholarly papers, I will give several examples. The book has been obviously cited by scholars focusing on the history of cities and political history. In her paper, Menes explores the influence of urban corruption on a city’s growth and economy. She regards The Shame of the Cities as “[t]he richest single source on graft . . . with over 90 examples of graft in 6 cities. The seven essays . . . are arguably the finest survey of urban graft ever written” (2). Nevertheless, other disciplines such as sociology can make use of the facts included in The Shame of the Cities. Neely explores how the bosses’ methods of gaining power could be used in favor of progress and social good. Neely quotes Steffens’s depictions of bosses Ed Butler of St. Louis and “Doc” Ames of Minneapolis who exemplify how a strong personality can seize power (773). Also authors writing about musical instruments use Steffens’s text as a source, as Smith does in his article about Pittsburgh’s millionaires who owned residence organs at the turn of the twentieth century. Smith quotes Steffens’s description of the relationship between Magee and Flinn, Pittsburgh’s boss and his business associate, in order to illustrate the millionaires’ modes of conduct which were typical of their time (72).
In conclusion, The Shame of the Cities has gained in popularity since its publication because it shows the system of corruption from a different point of view and because Steffens was able to use his writing skills to create a story that attracts attention. It was approved of at the time of its publication and it has served as a source of contemporary testimonies of how municipal corruption was organized at the beginning of the twentieth century. Concluding from the reviews and papers which I have read about The Shame of the Cities, I gather that positive evaluations of the book have prevailed. In my view, Lincoln Steffens wrote a series of articles that has made a difference.
What also makes The Shame of the Cities worth reading is its literary style that deserves a closer examination. Young observes that Steffens employs techniques of both non-fictional and fictional styles in the book (Young). In my view, the connection of the two genres makes the book remarkable. I will demonstrate particular techniques and interpret why Steffens applies them. I suggest that the use of the features of both of the genres complies with McClure’s and Steffens’s standards of journalism. The journalistic devices enhance credibility whereas the fictional tools make the reader more involved in the text and encourage emotions, thus fulfilling Steffens’s aim “to move and to convince” (Steffens 18).
The most effective journalistic technique is to present verified facts. The Shame of the Cities is a collection of magazine articles that aim, in the first place, to convey information and present Steffens’s claims. Obviously, such articles have to rely on facts. To bring verified and detailed facts was one of the key principles embraced by S. S. McClure. McClure said that he demanded accuracy from his staff and he paid them “for their study rather than for the amount of copy they turned out” (qtd. in Kaplan 104). Steffens complied with this requirement. I have detected several types of evidence by means of which Steffens supports his stories. He provides exact prices paid for certain services, names concrete persons engaged in crime, and delivers oral testimonies as well as facsimiles of documents.
In order to illustrate how Steffens documents what money flowed in bribery, let us quote his “Tweed Days in St. Louis,” where he records concrete sums. Steffens writes that a member of the Assembly “deposited $5,000 in a savings bank” (35) or “a Councilman stated that he was paid $50,000 for his vote on a single measure” (35). Steffens also accumulated evidence of what fixed prices were set for protection of illegal businesses. In “The Shame of Minneapolis,” he writes that “disorderly houses were practically licensed by the city, the women appearing before the clerk of the Municipal Court each month to pay a ‘fine’ of $100” (Steffens 71).
Further, Steffens was not intimidated by the threat of libel action, and named names. As Kaplan explains, McClure’s writers as well as other muckraking journalists were constantly aware that a lawsuit could be filed almost any time against them on the grounds of libel (114). Steffens described his rule for handling delicate information:
Don’t shoot all your ammunition at the first attack. . . . Hold back a few of the most damning facts. When the man you’re after reads your stuff in print, he’ll either feel relieved to find you haven’t told the worst, or will be disposed not to start anything for fear you will find it out. (qtd. in Kaplan 114)
And so Steffens filled his articles with names. For example, in “Pittsburg: A City Ashamed,” he depicts how contracts for a new public building were awarded:
J. O. Brown was Director of Public Safety. . . . Favored contractors were named or their wares described all through, and a letter to the architect from J. O. Brown contained specifications for . . . favoritism. . . . The stone clause was Flinn’s, and that is the one that raised the rumpus. Flinn’s quarry produced Ligonier block, and Ligonier block was specified. (171)
Steffens also incorporates oral testimonies of people who found themselves in the midst of the corrupt system, such as in “Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented,” where he deals with corruption in the public schools:
Miss Rena A. Haydock testified as follows: “I went to see Mr. Travis . . . in reference to getting a teacher’s certificate. He advised me to see all of the directors, especially Mr. Brown. They told me that it would be necessary for me to pay $120 to get the place.” (221)
However, it was not only oral evidence that Steffens gathered. Having acquired a ledger which contained payments that had been made to Minneapolis’s boss Ames and his men for taking part in poker swindling, he did not hesitate to attach its facsimiles to “The Shame of Minneapolis,” commenting on it:
[T]hese smaller payments . . . are all down on the pages of the “big mitt” ledger, photographs of which illuminate this article. This notorious book, which was kept by Charlie Howard, one of the “big mitt” men, was much talked of at the subsequent trials, but was kept hidden to await the trial of the mayor himself. (78)
Such a piece of evidence adds credibility to the article because Steffens points out that the ledger was kept by a man who was part of the crime and that it was important evidence in court. Steffens agreed with McClure upon the need to give concrete facts in the articles. From my point of view, that a journalist presents as detailed facts as possible is a matter of pride and also a tool for making articles convincing. The more facts the journalist imparts, the more regarded they are for their abilities to find them out. The more facts the journalist can deliver to the reader, the more convinced the reader becomes that the journalist is telling the truth, and becomes involved. Steffens makes use of all the straightforward facts in order to convince the readers of the existence of the burning issues. He proves the truth of his claims because he addresses them from a position of an “expert” on the problems.
However, Steffens does not confine the literary techniques to those of non-fiction. He combines them with devices which are more typical of fiction. Young suggests that Steffens uses three kinds of such techniques in The Shame of the Cities, namely dialogue, rising action, and character development (Young). According to Young, Steffens places dialogue between long paragraphs, describing concrete acts of bribery and thus building up a picture of the complex system of corruption (Young). For instance, a dialogue held by two members of the Municipal Assembly is recounted in “Tweed Days in St. Louis” where Steffens focuses on corruption in the Assembly. He comments that a “newspaper reporter overheard this conversation one evening in the corridor of the City Hall” (35):
“Ah there, my boodler!” said Mr. Delegate.
“Stay there, my grafter!” replied Mr. Councilman. “Can you lend me a hundred for a day or two?”
“Not at present. But I can spare it if the Z— bill goes through to-night. Meet me at F—’s later.”
“All right, my jailbird; I’ll be there.” (36)
As Young observes, the use of dialogue serves the following purposes. First, it lets readers “witness” the actual corrupt officials discussing their affairs and consequently encourages the readers’ entertainment and shock (Young). In my opinion, the officials who are having the conversation reflect their easy-going attitude towards bribery. They do not feel any fear at all that they will be caught. If Steffens portrays them so, the readers might be the more outraged because they perceive that the bribers laugh at all the promises they have given to their voters. As a result, the readers might be roused to action against the corrupt politicians. Second, as Young goes on interpreting the functions of dialogue in the text, it enlivens the text by bringing other voices than Steffens’s into it. Otherwise, it would be only Steffens who speaks to the readers and summarizes the facts that he collected in his investigation (Young). In my view, Steffens tries to highlight the veracity of his story by means of dialogue. On the other hand, it can be argued that the use of dialogue discredits the facts presented. A suspicious reader can raise an objection that nobody can recall a conversation word for word. The reader can suspect that the author makes the article more sensational than the true story is.
According to Young, another fictional technique adopted in The Shame of the Cities is rising action and building suspense. Steffens attempts to make readers absorbed in reading the text although the readers realize how the story ends (Young). In “Tweed Days in St. Louis,” the Circuit Attorney Joseph W. Folk searches for money deposited in a bank to be paid to certain Assemblymen if they vote in favor of a bill. Steffens builds the text as if it were a detective story, making it more dramatic:
[A] solemn procession wended its way from the president’s office to the vaults in the sub-cellar—the president, the cashier, and the corporation’s lawyer, the grand jurors, and the Circuit Attorney. All bent eagerly forward as the key was inserted in the lock. The iron drawer yielded, and a roll of something wrapped in brown paper was brought to light. (46)
By creating suspense, again, Steffens aims to engross and entertain the readers.
In Young’s view, the third device of fiction that can be noticed in The Shame of the Cities is character development (Young). For example, in “The Shame of Minneapolis,” Steffens gives a full account of Doc Ames’s, the local boss’s, life and characteristics. He illuminates in detail Ames’s pedigree and education:
He was the “good fellow” —a genial, generous reprobate. . . . “Doc” Ames, tall, straight, and cheerful, attracted men, and they gave him votes for his smiles. . . . There was nothing of the Puritan about him. His father . . . had a strong strain of it in him, but he moved on with his family of six sons from Garden Prairie, Ill., to Fort Snelling reservation, in 1851, before Minneapolis was founded, and young Albert Alonzo, who then was ten years old, grew up free, easy, and tolerant. He was sent to school, then to college in Chicago, and he returned home a doctor of medicine before he was twenty-one. (65)
Then, Steffens moves from Ames’s background to the way he built his position in the community:
Skillful as a surgeon, devoted as a physician, and as a man kindly, he increased his practice till he was the best-loved man in the community. . . . He went, and he gave not only his professional service, but sympathy, and often charity. (65-66)
Steffens advances the story of Ames’s by recalling how Ames ascended to power:
He sought office himself from the start, and he got most of the small places he wanted by changing his party to seize the opportunity. . . . As time went on he rose from smaller offices to be a Republican mayor, then twice at intervals to be a Democratic mayor. (66-67)
Young suggests that Steffens intends to interest the audience in the key characters of the story. He creates an exciting tale in which characters are brought together by the author while they still remain living people. This vivid presentation of the characters transforms the report from a mere account of facts into a network of relationships among the real people. The reader is slowly induced to like the boss although he is the leading figure in the city’s illegal business and the reader is not expected to take his side (Young).
I suggest that by joining the two genres, Steffens met requirements that were specified both by McClure and Steffens himself. Both of them requested factual information because the exact facts had the power to convince readers that the articles reported on significant issues. Concerning the fictional style of the reports, I find it to be grounded on two reasons. First, the writers on McClure’s were obliged to follow the editor’s instructions. McClure once told Steffens: “Your narrative lacks force because you do not give proper emphasis to the things that should be emphasized” (qtd. in Kaplan 114). McClure’s aim was transparent – to publish a marketable magazine. By employing the fictional techniques, Steffens could produce stirring texts and enhance McClure’s chance to make a profit. Second, Steffens aspired to become a writer at first and did not plan to make his living as a journalist. From the very beginning of his career, he tended to write as an artist and sought for the opportunity of doing so. I assume that he would not have been fully satisfied with his work if he had not written in a way that his readers found attractive and exciting. I believe that he incorporated the devices of fiction for this reason too. In conclusion, Steffens made use of journalistic and fictional techniques in order to make an impression on his readers. That he succeeded at least to a certain extent can be inferred from the review “Municipal Misrule” which rated “The Shamelessness of St. Louis” as “mighty good reading, whatever the object” of the article was (New York Times).