Controversial Columnist

Ambrose Bierce

19th century columnist

We work closely with members of the media and have an appreciation for the work they do on behalf of the public.

Throughout media history there have been journalists and columnists who singlehandedly (most often with the consent of publishers and editors) changed the course of events. Among the most noted was Columnist Ambrose Bierce.

Born in 1842 in Ohio the tenth of 13 children, he inherited a love for literature that he used throughout his life to tell others what he saw and felt.

While serving in the military he rescued a comrade who had been gravely wounded in the Battle of Rich Mountain. Much of what he wrote about at that time – both fiction and memoir – were based up his battle experiences. “What I Saw of Shiloh” covered the Battle of Shilho in 1862.

Some of his speculative captured the imagination of film writers. His short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” was made into a movie several times, including an episode of TV’s The Twilight Zone.

Following his military career he moved to San Francisco where he worked as a journalist for various newspapers like The Californian and The Wasp. It was while he was at The Wasp that Bierce started the column “Prattle.”

In time, he became a regular columnist and editorialist of The San Francisco Examiner newspaper published by William Randolph Hearst, His columns were considered by some to be muckraking because with satire and harsh criticism they stirred up controversy on a variety of topics including the Rail Road Refinancing Bill.

His coverage of the bill which was introduced to Congress in 1896 exposed how it would excuse Union Pacific and Central Pacific rail road companies from having to repay low interest government loans amounting to $130 million.

His efforts to bring attention to the underlying intent of the bill helped to make sure it was defeated.

His columns were considered muckraking because with satire and harsh criticism they stirred up controversy and exposed wrongdoing.

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