Hard to stay clean when you’re playing in the mud.
New York City 1895 – Following a young female heroin, a group of Muckrakers take it upon themselves to expose corruption and hypocrisy in turn of the century New York City.
muckraker: (def) Reform-minded American journalists who relied on their own investigative journalism reporting working to expose social ills and corporate and political corruption.
(syn) – Watchdog Journalism
“the men with the muck rakes are often indispensable to the well being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck…”
At the height of the Progressive Era, a group of investigative journalist take it upon themselves to expose corruption and hypocrisy within the city’s police department and political machine.
Following our female heroine, Elizabeth Jordan, a young reporter with a dark past, who arrives to New York City with a foolish determination to create a name for herself in a world where women had to choose between a career and a family.
After bullying her way through the doors of the famous “The World” paper, Elizabeth is thrown into the smelly heap of New York City’s political structure. Making her way downtown where she witnesses the sorrowful, drunken faces of Manhattan’s Lower-east side. She finds herself feeling obligated to use her words to tell people’s stories whose voices disappear beyond the tenement walls.
Elizabeth joins “The muckrakers” a small group of investigative journalist who decide to use the power of their words to expose the diseased veins that run the city, including the police department and the highest boss: Tammany Hall whose monopolies and greed have run the city for half a century – causing the poor no chance of growth and the rich no chance of falling . They must go undercover, manipulate, cheat, and fight to get the pieces of their puzzle for their “beats” (stories). But, as every good reporters knows, there are always two sides to every story, and perhaps these reporters vigilante acts are not as clear as they appear. But drastic change is the result of drastic acts and change is certainly what this city needs.
MEET THE MUCKRAKERS
- ELIZABETH JORDAN-late 20’s
A forgetful face with an unforgettable voice.
We meet Elizabeth Jordan as she is arriving to Manhattan for the first time. The seemingly bright eyed and bushy tailed reporter talks her way into a job within hours of arrival. Her persistence and overbearing determination mixed with her heightened attention to detail make her a strong reporter. She asks the hard questions while noticing the drink in one’s hand and the books on one shelf. She is constantly needing to be put her in her ‘place’ but she only stays for a minute until the next shiny object pulls her out. She is driven by the need to know and relay information.
The one and only thing Elizabeth won’t talk about, is herself. We slowly find out that she is running from her past life; after writing a very controversial series of articles that exposed a ring of abortion clinics, Elizabeth was sent away to a mental institution by her abusive husband who wanted to silence her voice. So Elizabeth fled, with little money, a new surname, and a lost family, all the way to Manhattan, a place where new identity could be found. So while she will talk your ear off about political reform and where to find the best espresso she will shy from any romantic affection or personal information.
Her initial goal is to hide and make money the only way she knows how – to write. But in this competitive field she must speak louder and faster than the rest to succeed and Elizabeth would rather succeed and be vulnerable than fail and be safe.
When an unforeseen romantic connection with fellow muckraker, Lincoln Steffens, Elizabeth must come to terms with not only her past but also a woman’s place in this progressive world.
- JACOB RIIS – 50’s
The father of the Muckrakers. A presence both physically and intelligently. An already acclaimed journalist, praised among the people, hated among the ‘bosses’. Growing up among the poor immigrants, he taught himself to read and write and worked his way into the newspaper business. He has a deep hatred for indecency but a judgemental eye towards human intelligence. He is smarter than most, has a sharp tongue that can win almost any battle, and
a sarcastic humor make him one step ahead the rest. He wants nothing more than to see the Police department and Tammany hall fall on its face.
Hs flaw: He wants change in the police department so strongly, that he will take down an entire fleet to get to the captain. He has little faith in man.
He is secretly romantically involved with an African-American woman who runs a help-house for recently freed slaves. Although we believe he really loves her, he uses their relationship for leads and information to get to his story.
His ultimate goal – Bring in Theodore Roosevelt to reform NYC.
THE FEISTY SUFFRAGETTE
- BRITTA BLACK – 20s
Young and beautiful, she weaves through different groups with social ease. She uses her charm to get men to follow her orders. She drinks, gambles, sleeps around, not willing to follow any rules or restrictions of society. She goes undercover as a saloon girl to spy on Tammany Hall boss, Richard Croker. She slowly takes to Elizabeth, despises Winnie and can’t help but fall for David Graham Phillips, who can rival here in spontaneity, causing a passionate but destructive relationship.
Her flaw: She uses men the way men the way man use woman.
Her ultimate goal – Help women get the vote.
THE VOICE OF REASON
- LINCOLN STEFFENS – late 20’s
An introverted writer whose quiet observations sing with human depth. He is kind and sweet with a nervousness that pushes him to the back of the otherwise rowdy group. He sees the world in black and white and has a hard time mingling in the grey area. He immediately takes to Elizabeth and tries his hardest to get close to her. Working closely with Riis, he be-friends police officer to gain information, but struggles when he begins to feel sympathy for the enemy.
His flaw: He has a hard time seeing the larger picture. He has too much sympathy for all, trusting people he shouldn’t and letting guilt and empathy rule his decision making.
Ultimate goal – To be with Elizabeth and start a family.
THE STRANGE BRAIN
- GEORGIANNA MARKS – 30’s
A rare breed in looks in personality. She stands out in a crowd for many reasons, including her fire colored hair and tall stature. She is a reporter driven by her fascination with the weird. She finds death intriguing and absurdness invigorating. She is a proud member of the Christian-Science church (the fastest growing religion at the time) and views the world through a metaphysical lense.
Internal Conflict: Growing up in an Amish family and struggling with her new religion. She doesn’t understand the unknown and struggles with a higher power.
Her flaws: She lacks empathy.
Her ultimate goal: To have things explained.
THE SNARKY A-HOLE
- DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS – 30’s
Too handsome, too smart, too confident. Money and fame drives his journalism, wanting to stay ahead of everyone else. He plots and manipulates, making the rakers turn against each other. Although usually butting heads with Riis, they share a hatred for politics.
Internal Conflict: Although his attitude would lead you to believe he has a good home-life, he is troubled by being the sole care-taker of a mentally handicapped brother. He falls for Britta, but won’t ever be with someone who is not the ‘typical wife’.
His flaw: He thinks selfishness is the path to success.
His Ultimate Goal: Become the next Pultizer.
THE BEST FRIEND.
- JACK A BECKETT – 30’s
Elizabeth’s confidant, her closest friend. A closeted homosexual who uses alcohol to ease his loneliness. He is handsome and likable and most importantly hysterical. He does not take his reporting seriously and although he is good at it, he finds it exhaustingly stupid. He pokes fun at the others who would die for their story, while he doesn’t bother getting up before noon for an interview.
His Flaw: He would rather take his own life than have people find out the truth about his sexuality.
His Ultimate Goal: Human Connection.
- WINNIE JEFFERSON – 20’s
A beautiful southern bell. She is polite, respectable and very wealthy. Conservative in attitude and opinions, she stands for what woman of the time SHOULD be. She typically writes about women’s fashion and lifestyle but joins the muckrakers to expand her career – they take her in only because of her connections around town. Her and Britta have great disdain for each-other as Winnie is an anti-suffragette.
Internal Conflict: Her traditional values are constantly being challenged by change. She does not understand why things can’t stay the way they are.
Her Flaw: She is always trying to be what people want her to be. She wants to be the ‘picture perfect’ woman.
Ultimate Goal – To find a man who shares her traditional values but allows her to write.
THE BAD GUYS
Run as the Irish mob with Thomas Byrnes as the leader. Bribery and theft make the policeman some of the richest people in Manhattan. They raise rent for the poor, make saloon owners pay fines, and throw away anyone who questions their orders. They are run by:
The original organized crime group:
Run by Richard Croker, this political machine has run the town for half a century, nominating their own members into political power – they have a golden pass to do whatever they want. Owners of most of the saloon, gambling rings and brothels, they are only looking out for their own kind. They bully churches and leaders in anyway they can to further their financial income and power. On top of all this they start a trafficking ring where they ship young immigrants to different brothels around the world.
A poor Jewish family whose lives represent all challenges that Immigrants face. When their daughter befriends Elizabeth, they become the spies within their own community. Grateful for the extra pay but fearful of their neighbors.
Hearst & Pulitzer run this game and each with their own agendas will cause speed bumps in the Rakers play.
A constant presence of the show – the suffragettes put pressure on Britta to gain momentum. After fighting for over 50 years, their impatience has made them turn to riskier political moves.
THE GUEST STARS
Let us not forget all the amazing innovators who the Rakers bump buns with, including:
Susan B Anthony
And, most importantly, Theodore Roosevelt.
New York City – 1895
“Oh, God! That bread should be so dear, And flesh and blood so cheap!” – JACOB RIIS
Einstein and Tesla argued, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde caused controversy, Suffragettes marched, Workers striked, and Reporters covered it all.
As the wealthy pranced their fine leather boots along the smooth ground, new street lights casting yellow shadows along their sober faces chatting about the latest headline “Three more bodies found in Hudson River”, their joyful voices echoed into the night and south, not much further, 2 miles, the echos evaporating as a young boy reads the same headline while tossing stolen bear nuts into his mouth, he tilts the paper closer to the trash fire to lit the words on the page. Manhattan, an island divided, a place where the rich fought for power and the immigrants fought for their lives.
The Great Connection: NEWSPAPERS FOR ALL
The age of information. Daily papers filled the minds of all, making it the engine for reform.