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Nellie Bly: Making historic investigative articles by being placed in the specific situation.


There are many methods in gathering information for investigative reports, but actually placing yourself in the scenario is a risky, and sometimes dangerous, approach. Stunts like this are how Nellie Bly made history in creating investigative articles.


Born in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Jane Cochran (later Cochrane) Seaman was a writer for the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1885, until being signed to the women’s papers, and the New York World from 1887 to 1894. Although much of her work was “a series of controversial stories about events and people in New York City,” Cochrane, under the pen name of “Nellie Bly,” made a name for herself by not only paying tribute to "Around the World in Eighty Days" by taking a trip around the world herself, but also for her series of articles that was later published as a book titled "Ten Days in a Mad-House."


After feigning a mental illness to get herself confined in the “notorious asylum for women on Blackwell’s Island (later Roosevelt Island),” Bly reported on the horrendous conditions she faced, which could not be explained better than in the words of Julia M. Klein:



Bly’s work on the asylum didn’t just provide an insight into the cruel treatment she faced, the book also “led to more funding for the mentally ill, stronger oversight of nurses and other healthcare workers, and regulations that applied to firefighting and public facilities.” Bly’s articles not only addressed various issues that have been going on throughout New York City, but Bly was also an advocate for the poor, even by asking questions such as, for example, “What happens to other less fortunate women who are caught in the snares of these people?” Bly’s method of obtaining information was well-received back in the day, but it has been argued that “the ethics of her intimate immersion would undoubtedly be scrutinized differently today.”


Nellie Bly was a writer who really went to great lengths in attempts to put an end to cruel mistreatment against those in need, advocated for the poor, and paid tribute to other great literary works of art. Even when placing herself in potentially dangerous situations in order to covertly obtain information, Nellie Bly has done it all, which is why she was one of the greatest journalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


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