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I. F. Stone

I. F. Stone

Stone in April of 1972
Born Isidor Feinstein
December 24, 1907(1907-12-24)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died June 18, 1989 (aged 81)
Boston, Massachusetts
Occupation Investigative journalist
Spouse(s) Esther Roisman
Website
http://www.ifstone.org

Isidor Feinstein Stone (December 24, 1907 – June 18, 1989; born Isidor Feinstein, better known as I. F. Stone and Izzy Stone) was an iconoclastic American investigative journalist.[1][2] He is best remembered for his self-published newsletter, I. F. Stone's Weekly which was ranked 16th in a poll of his fellow journalists of "The Top 100 Works of Journalism in the United States in the 20th Century".[3]

Contents

[edit] Early years

Stone was born Isidor Feinstein in Philadelphia. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who owned a store in Haddonfield, New Jersey. His sister is journalist and film critic Judy Stone.[4] He studied philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a student he wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer.[2]

Stone attended Haddonfield Memorial High School, where he ultimately graduated ranked 49th in his class of 52.[5] He started his own newspaper, the Progress, as a high school sophomore. He later worked for the Haddonfield Press and the Camden Courier-Post. After dropping out of the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the The Philadelphia Inquirer, then known as the "Republican Bible of Pennsylvania.":[2] Influenced by the work of Jack London, he became a radical journalist. He joined the Inquirer's morning rival, the "Philadelphia Record", owned by liberal Democrat J. David Stern, and he moved to the New York Post after Stern bought that paper in the Depression. In the 1930s, he played an active role in the Popular Front opposition to Adolf Hitler.

[edit] Marriage

In 1929, he married Esther Roisman, who later served as his assistant at I.F. Stone's Weekly.[2] They remained married until his death and had three children: Celia (m. Gilbert), Jeremy, and Christopher.

[edit] Career

[edit] New York Post

Stone moved to the New York Post in 1933 and during this period supported Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. His first book, The Court Disposes (1937), was a critique of the Court's role in blocking New Deal reforms. On the advice of an editor that his political writings would be better received if he were not perceived as Jewish, he changed his name to I. F. Stone in 1937. He would later recall he "still felt badly" about the change, and referred to himself as "Izzy" throughout his career.[6]

[edit] The Nation

After leaving the New York Post in 1939, Stone became associate editor and then Washington editor of The Nation.[2] His next book, Business as Unusual (1941), was an attack on the country's failure to prepare for war.

Stone's exposé of the FBI for the Nation during the war caused a sensation and deeply embarrassed J. Edgar Hoover, when Stone revealed the bigotry of the questions the FBI asked to ferret out subversives from the civil service: "Does he mix with Negroes? Does he...have too many Jewish friends? Does he think the colored races are as good as the white? Why do you suppose he has hired so many Jews?." And, hilariously given the time, when Vichy France was a Nazi puppet regime, "Is he always criticizing Vichy France?" In Izzy's column he noted "questions like these are being used as a sieve to strain anti-fascists and liberals out of the government. They serve no other purpose."[7] Many readers wrote in to thank the magazine for running the article, but the Nation was criticized for allowing Stone to conceal the identity of his sources. In 1946, the Nation's editor Freda Kirchwey fired Stone when she found out that he had signed with the progressive New York afternoon newspaper, PM, as a foreign correspondent covering the Jewish underground in Mandatory Palestine.

[edit] Work for PM

After the end of Second World War Stone traveled to the Near East to report on the efforts of displaced Eastern European Jews to enter Palestine. In the resulting book Underground to Palestine (1948), Stone wrote that the displaced persons made strenuous efforts to reach the Jewish homeland of Israel although it would have been far easier to emigrate to the United States because,

They have been kicked around as Jews and now they want to live as Jews. Over and over I heard it said: "We want to build a Jewish country. ... We are tired of putting our sweat and blood into places where we are not welcome." ... These Jews want the right to live as a people, to build as a people, to make their contribution to the world as a people. Are their national aspirations any less worthy of respect than those of any other oppressed people?[8]

Stone shared the Zionists' aspirations and strongly supported the creation of the State of Israel before it was recognized by the government of the United States. Like other moderate Zionists, including the distinguished diplomat and later Israeli Minister Abba Eban, Stone also supported a bi-national state in which Jews and Palestinians could live together. As the years passed, however, Stone became increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinians' plight,[2] attracting Eban's displeasure. Fellow "gadfly", Noam Chomsky claimed in a 2009 interview that Eban had disparaged both himself and Stone as "neurotic self-hating Jews".[9]

According to D.D. Guttenplan, Stone

stopped going to Israel in 1950, because the State Department wouldn’t give him a passport. But as soon as he got his passport back, in part because of a legal victory by his brother-in-law Leonard Boudin . . . who kept the State Department from taking away your passport for political reasons, [and] who established the right to travel, Stone got his passport back and went to Israel again in ’56, before the Suez War. And he wrote two things. He wrote, “Israel is a transformed country. What was once a struggling country is now a thriving country. Economically, it’s booming. It will win—it’s prepared for war and will win, you know, the next war, or the next war after that, militarily.” He said, “But there will be wars and wars and wars until Israel comes to terms with the Palestinians.” He wrote in 1956, “The road to peace lies through the Palestinian refugee camp.”[10]

PM went under in 1948 and was replaced first by the New York Star and then the The Daily Compass until it ceased publication in 1952. A critic of the emerging Cold War, Stone published the Hidden History of the Korean War that same year.[2] The book suggested that South Korea initiated hostilities with unprovoked cross-border attacks and was highly critical of U.S. policies under John Foster Dulles, General Douglas MacArthur, and Korean dictator Syngman Rhee. Stone wrote:

I believe I have succeeded in throwing new light on its origins, on the operations of MacArthur and Dulles, on the weaknesses of Truman and Acheson, on the way the Chinese were provoked to intervene, and on the way the truce talks have been dragged out and the issues muddied by American military men hostile from the first to negotiations. I have tried to bring as much of the hidden story to light as I could in order to put the people of the United States and the United Nations on guard.

[edit] I. F. Stone's Weekly

In the 1930s and 40s Stone had been a mainstream journalist, appearing on Meet the Press (then a radio show); in 1950 he found himself blacklisted and unable to get work.[11] In 1953, inspired by the example of the muckraking journalist George Seldes and his political weekly, In Fact, Stone decided to start his own independent newsletter, I. F. Stone's Weekly. Over the next few years, Stone's newsletter campaigned against McCarthyism and racial discrimination in the United States.

In 1964, using evidence drawn from a close reading and analysis of published accounts, Stone was the only American journalist to challenge President Johnson's account of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. During the 1960s, Stone continued to criticize the Vietnam War. At its peak in the 1960s, the Weekly had a circulation of about 70,000,[12] yet it was regarded as very influential.

Hundreds of articles originally published in the Weekly were later republished in The I.F. Stone's Weekly Reader (1973), and in three volumes of a six-volume compendium of Stone's writings called A Noncomformist History of Our Times (1989).

[edit] Journalistic style

According to Nation Magazine editor Victor Navasky, Stone's journalistic work drew heavily on obscure documents from the public domain; some of his best scoops were discovered by peering through the voluminous official records generated by the government. Navasky also believes that as an outspoken leftist journalist working in often hostile environments, Stone's stories needed to meet an extremely high burden of proof to be considered credible. Navasky argues that most of Stone's articles are very well sourced, typically with official documents. Navasky described Stone's willingness to "scour and devour public documents, bury himself in The Congressional Record, study obscure Congressional committee hearings, debates and reports, all the time prospecting for news nuggets (which would appear as boxed paragraphs in his paper), contradictions in the official line, examples of bureaucratic and political mendacity, documentation of incursions on civil rights and liberties."[13]

For himself, Stone had this to say about his style of reporting:

"I made no claims to inside stuff. I tried to give information which could be documented, so the reader could check it for himself... Reporters tend to be absorbed by the bureaucracies they cover; they take on the habits, attitudes, and even accents of the military or the diplomatic corps. Should a reporter resist the pressure, there are many ways to get rid of him... But a reporter covering the whole capital on his own — particularly if he is his own employer — is immune from these pressures."

[edit] Retirement, Classical scholarship and death

In 1971 angina pectoris forced Stone to cease publication of the Weekly. After his retirement, he decided to return to the University of Pennsylvania, whence he had dropped out years before and earn his degree in Classical Languages. Stone successfully learned ancient Greek and wrote a book about the prosecution and death of Socrates, The Trial of Socrates, in which he argued that Socrates wanted to be sentenced to death in order to shame the Athenian democracy, which he despised.

In 1970 Stone received a Special George Polk Award, and in 1976 he received the Conscience-in-Media Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Stone died of a heart attack in 1989 in Boston.[2]

[edit] Legacy

Composer Scott Johnson makes extensive use of Stone's voice taken from a recorded 1981 lecture in his large-scale musical work, How It Happens, completed in 1991 on commission for the Kronos Quartet.

The 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards[14] lists Stone's The Trial of Socrates as one his three favorite books.

On March 5, 2008, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University announced plans to award an annual I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence and an associated I.F. Stone Workshop on Strengthening Journalistic Independence.[15]

In 2008 The Park Center for Independent Media at the Roy H. Park School of Communications created the Izzy Award, named after Stone. The award goes to "an independent outlet, journalist, or producer for contributions to our culture, politics, or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures" for "special achievement in independent media." [16]

[edit] Awards

[edit] Publications

[edit] References

  1. ^ "I.F. Stone Dies; 'Conscience of Investigative Journalism'". Los Angeles Times. June 19, 1989. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/66478807.html. Retrieved 2008-04-14. "[He] published his first newspaper as a New Jersey schoolboy of 14 and proceeded to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted for the rest of his life. He worked for seven newspapers, was Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine and wrote 13 books. Although his politics were well to the left of center, Stone was best known for a conservative-looking four-page paper, I.F. Stone's Weekly, which he published with his wife, Esther, for 18 years." 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Flint, Peter B. (June 19, 1989). "I.F. Stone, Iconoclast of Journalism, Is Dead at 81; His integrity was inspiration and annoyance for decades.". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE7D9123BF93AA25755C0A96F948260. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "I. F. Stone, the independent, radical pamphleteer of American journalism hailed by admirers for scholarship, wit and lucidity and denounced by critics for wrongheadedness and stubbornness, died of a heart attack yesterday in a Boston hospital. He was 81 years old and lived for many years in Washington." 
  3. ^ Stephens, Mitchell (March 1, 1999). "Journalism's Greatest Hits: Two Lists of a Century's Top Stories". New York Times. p. C1. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/01/business/media-journalism-s-greatest-hits-two-lists-of-a-century-s-top-stories.html?n=Top%2FReference%2FTimes%20Topics%2FSubjects%2FN%2FNews%20and%20News%20Media. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  4. ^ Muckraker, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 20, 1989. Accessed October 28, 2007. "Born in Philadelphia and raised in Haddonfield, N.J., Mr. Stone worked many years on newspapers in South Jersey, Philadelphia (including a brief period for The Inquirer) and New York..."
  5. ^ Klaidman, Stephen (April 15, 1977). "I. F. Stone Returns to College at 68: Stone Starts A New Career As a Scholar.". Washington Post. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost_historical/access/137577552.html. Retrieved 2008-04-13. "I. F. Stone, a college dropout turned publisher of an incisive Washington newsletter bearing his name, began his academic career rather inauspiciously. He graduated 49th in a class of 52 from Haddonfield (N.J.) High School." 
  6. ^ Patner, Andrew, I.F. Stone: A Portrait, New York, Pantheon Books, 1988. 13.
  7. ^ [Myra MacPherson, All Governments Lie: p 192-193]
  8. ^ "Underground to Palestine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". En.wikipedia.org. http://en.wikipedia.orghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground_to_Palestine. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  9. ^ Voniati, Christiana (February 16, 2009). "Chomsky on Gaza". Countercurrents. http://www.countercurrents.org/voniati160209.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-27.  Actually, in 1974, Chomsky had quoted Eban as writing "I do not believe that any argument [...] can probably change the convictions of Noam Chomsky or of I.F. Stone, whose basic complex is one of guilt about Jewish survival". Chomsky, Noam (2004). Middle East Illusions: Including Peace in the Middle East? Reflections on Justice and Nationhood. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 130–131. ISBN 9780742529779. 
  10. ^ Transcript from interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, June 19, 2009 [1]
  11. ^ According to Guttenplan "They liked him on Meet the Press, the original producer of Meet the Press told me, because he was a good needler. He was very good at getting under the skin of sort of pompous guests." One of the people he needled was Dr. Morris Fishbein, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, who accused those supporting national health insurance of being Communists. Stone asked, “Dr. Fishbein, given that President Truman has already spoken out in favor of national health insurance, do you think that that makes him a dangerous communist or just a deluded fellow traveler?” (See transcript of D.D. Guttenplan interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. [2]).
  12. ^ I.F. Stone Weekly (sic), Spartacus Schoolnet. Retrieved 21 December 2006.
  13. ^ Navasky, Victor, I.F. Stone, The Nation, posted July 2, 2003, July 21, 2003 issue. Retrieved September 9, 2006.
  14. ^ "John Edwards' favorite books". Johnedwards.com. http://johnedwards.com/about/john/. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  15. ^ See nieman.harvard.edu, or the "Release notes". On the same day, ifstone.org went public, containing further information on the Harvard project.
  16. ^ The Izzy Award, Izzy Award Home Page, Park Center for Independent Media. Retrieved 19-03-2009.

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