Prior to taking this course, I’ll be 100% honest, I did not know who Izzy Stone was beyond hearing his name around the Park school. Despite being a journalism major my knowledge of legendary journalists was unfortunately limited, but I now see it more as an opportunity to be fully inspired at this point in my life and career. That being said, and after reading about the man, Izzy Stone has quickly become a hero of mine.
Learning about Izzy’s work led me to consider the problem of independent journalists in history. They are often withheld from the spotlight because, at the time, they and their work were heavily criminalized. The work they were doing at the time had the power to take down top officials, corporations, businesses, even governments, and none of the mainstream/bigger publications wanted to risk their status and income by covering it.
In the case of George Seldes the work he and his colleagues carried out had the power to change the entire course of WWII, as explained below in an excerpt from Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon’s post titled “Press Critic George Seldes Leaves a Legacy of Courage:”
Seldes and three colleagues secured an interview with Paul von Hindenburg, the German field marshal. Seldes asked what had ended the war. ”The American infantry in the Argonne won the war,” Hindenburg responded, and elaborated before breaking into sobs.
It was an enormous scoop. But allied military censors blocked Hindenburg’s admission, which he never repeated in public.
The story could have seriously undermined later Nazi claims that Germany had lost the war due to a ”stab in the back” by Jews and leftists. Seldes came to believe that the interview, if published, ”would have destroyed the main planks of the platform on which Hitler rose to power.” But the reporters involved ”did not think it worthwhile to give up our number-one positions in journalism” by disobeying military censors ”in order to be free to publish.”
The unbelievable amount of courage and tenacity of journalists like Stone and Seldes is inspiring as they did not care who they offended with their work. Their primary responsibility was to the public and communicating the complete truth no matter what. With the power mainstream media holds, especially nowadays, finding the actual truth is more complicated than it should be. However, Stone’s legacy lives on in several publications, like The Intercept, who uphold his ultimate principle that everyone is lying.
Reporters should start from the presumption that powerful institutions are lying, rather than the presumption that they’re telling the truth.
I am grateful to have been introduced to Stone’s work as it has greatly inspired me going forward. Sometimes the quality of mainstream reporting is discouraging in that there’s a lack of the honest muckraking that good journalism,in my opinion, should always have.
I look forward to continuing my research into Stone’s work by reading through his weeklys and looking more into the legacy he left behind. More journalists should do the same.