The Press: Return of Muckraking

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A contemporary form of journalism that owes a good deal to the muckrakers of the early 1900s seems to be making a comeback. It is called simply "investigative reporting," and it is more often sober than flamboyant. Its results come from months of patient digging into musty public records and dogged cross-checking rather than from dramatic secret informants. Three years ago, only one or two of the 36 newspapers represented at Columbia University's American Press Institute had investigative reporters. Last year, three-quarters of the same papers boasted at least one. "It's one of the hopes for this business," says Arthur Perfall, associate editor of the Long Island tabloid Newsday (circ. 427,000), a leader in the trend. Newsday has not one investigative reporter but a permanent team of four, sometimes raised to eleven for special projects. It is headed by Robert Greene, a 300-lb., 42-year-old veteran newspaperman who worked with Bobby Kennedy as a staff investigator for the Senate Rackets Committee in 1957.

Piquant Item. The Newsday team —sometimes called "Greene's Berets" —has up to now confined itself to local targets on Long Island, but last week it considerably enlarged its scope by taking on, though in a polite and peripheral way, the most distinguished target in the country: the President of the U.S. The team's disclosures about an unusually profitable sale of some Nixon-held stocks is but a small part of an encyclopedic—indeed, numbing —70,000-word, six-part report that deals exhaustively with the Florida real estate business. The principal characters in the series: Florida's former Democratic Senator George Smathers and his old Miami high school buddy, Charles G. ("Bebe") Rebozo, who is also Richard Nixon's best friend. Neither Rebozo nor Smathers is exactly virgin territory for prying reporters, but Newsday nonetheless managed to turn up some hitherto unknown details about them as well as a piquant item about the President. Examples:

> It had been previously reported that, when he became President, Richard Nixon sold his 185,891 shares in Fisher's Island Inc., a Florida land firm dominated by Rebozo, for $2 per share —twice what he had paid for it. What was not previously known, said Newsday, was that "other stockholders still were buying the shares at $1 each." It added that Nixon is the only "stockholder who is known to have realized a sizable profit," and quoted one of the other owners as saying, "He was President, and we thought we ought to give him a fair price."

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