George Seldes and his publication In Fact will forever stand as a symbol of independent media in the face of adversity. Although he passed away at 104 in 1995, his legacy lives on in every journalist who marches to the beat of his own drum. Drudge, Huffington, I.F. Stone, Josh Marshall and others have learned from example of In Fact that to beat the mainstream media, you have to create your own vessel for media. Seldes challenged dictators in his time, challenged the cigarette industry, challenged the government during wartime, and most of all challenged other publications. He started at the Pittsburgh Post and Chicago Tribune and later criticized the newspaper industry in America in his books Freedom of the Press and Lords of the Press. In You Can’t Print That! and Can These Things Be! Seldes he was able to publish work he wasn’t allowed to publish at the Tribune. No one believed Seldes when he reported unpublished scientific evidence linking cigarettes to cancer (until the news was reprinted in Reader’s Digest). He took the unpopular root because he defied advertisers that usually controlled content in MSMs.
I know that some lessons I have learned from George include:
- screw advertisers, you don’t need them
- you don’t need other writers to help, they might just bog you down
- stick to your principles
- pass on your wisdom (like Seldes did to Stone)
- always challenge war. nothing is natural, everything is political.
- tell the truth and run