• Brooke Kroeger

Brooke Kroeger’s new book brings good news. She puts in a good word for a discredited and abandoned form of investigative reporting closely identified with Chicago, and goes on to say that it’s actually not that discredited or abandoned.

Undercover Reporting: The Truth About Deception is a clear-eyed look at sneakiness. Kroeger is a professor of journalism at New York University and her previous books include a biography of Nellie Bly, a legendary fin-de-siecle reporter remembered for her brief stretch as a “stunt girl” (as Kroeger bluntly puts it) for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World: “What tops a ten-day incarceration as an inmate of the women’s lunatic asylum on Blackwell’s (now Roosevelt) Island, her very first New York World assignment?”

Kroeger put in three years as a reporter in UPI’s Chicago bureau in the mid-1970s, a tumultuous era in the rich history of undercover journalism. The Tribune in particular was then “in the vanguard of newspapers that made prominent, unapologetic use of the techniques of undercover reporting for investigations,” Kroeger writes. To probe the operations of private ambulance services, a Tribune reporter took an undercover job as a driver. That series won a Pulitzer. Another reporter got a job as a janitor at a private hospital and what he found out about unsanitary practices and Medicaid fraud helped shut the hospital down.