OLD Media Moves

The legacy of Rachel Carson in business journalism

April 18, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

An “On the Media” show on National Public Radio takes a look at the legacy of Earth Day and interviews Gary Kroll, a history professor, on how Rachel Carson, who published the book “Silent Spring” in 1962 about the dangers of pesticides to the environment, began to change our opinions about business.

Rachel CarsonIn an interview with Bob Garfield, host of the show, Kroll talked about Carson’s effect on society.

Here is an excerpt:

BOB GARFIELD: – the Vietnam War. Do you believe that it was pivotal in the whole way that American society regards its own assumptions?

GARY KROLL: Yes, I do. You put your faith and your trust in people. You put your faith in the government and the USDA in the 1950s, let’s say.

BOB GARFIELD: And American Cyanamid.

GARY KROLL: Exactly, yes, exactly. Science and the government and American corporations, you put your faith in there. And then what she says – and this is very startling, very startling for many readers in the 1960s – don’t trust them. They haven’t earned that trust yet. They may someday. And she really wants them to earn that trust, but they haven’t done it yet, and they may be hurting the public body.

Read more here. I’m a big believer that it was writers such as Carson, Jessica Mitford and Ralph Nader that led business journalists in the 1960s to become more critical of the companies they wrote about. Before they wrote books critical of certain industries, journalism had not see such analysis of business and industry since the muckrakers.

I’ll also note that Carson’s book was named one of the top five pieces of journalism in the 20th century by a New York University panel.

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