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Sex Trafficking, Scandal, and the Transformation of Journalism, 1885–1917$
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Gretchen Soderlund

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226021362

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226021676.001.0001

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White Slavery and Journalism ’s Shifting Axis of Truth

White Slavery and Journalism ’s Shifting Axis of Truth

(p.1) Chapter One White Slavery and Journalism ’s Shifting Axis of Truth
Sex Trafficking, Scandal, and the Transformation of Journalism, 1885–1917

Gretchen Soderlund

University of Chicago Press

This chapter narrates the rise of sex trafficking exposés in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Sexual scandals were prevalent even during the 1800s, gaining national notoriety with the news of the murder of upscale prostitute Helen Jewett. This case helped the press to discover that death with sexual detail could dramatically increase circulation rates of their newspapers. From this point on, editors were competing for the latest scoops and developments in sex scandal stories, leading to a period of sensationalizing the news and turning it to a whodunit story. In 1909, an important subset of this prostitution coverage emerged: the high-profile sex trafficking exposé that attempted to elicit pity, shock, and horror, to all audiences. The prevalence of the high-profile sex trafficking exposé led to changes in the legislation process, which in turn also altered the course of elections. This exposé took the form of a newspaper crusade that seeks to address social issues, but also has an underlying commercial motive.

Keywords:   news, prostitution, exposé, newspaper crusade, sex scandal stories

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