Celebrating a Media Maverick

Famed journalist and commentator I.F. Stone covered Washington with the fearless abandon of a blogger, but infused the exercise with the sort of ruthless reporting the Web too often lacks

| November / December 2006

A Note from Utne READER's Editors:Independent journalist I.F. Stone, who published the political newsletter I.F. Stone's Weekly from 1953 to 1971, was a predecessor and kindred spirit of today's political bloggers: He published frequently, worked outside the media establishment, shunned the pretense of objectivity in favor of clearly opinionated writing, and prided himself on scooping the big news-gathering operations. But Stone, who died in 1989, differed from most self-styled Web pundits by doggedly reporting and carefully crafting his essays, valuing insight over invective, and elevating the dialogue rather than reducing it to predictable partisan jousting.

'His sentences were often a lilting joy to read,' writes Myra MacPherson in the new biography All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone (Scribner). Another new book, The Best of I.F. Stone (PublicAffairs), collects some of his finest essays, including the following. Though they were written decades ago, Stone's takes on his profession and on landmark U.S. events-the McCarthy hearings, school integration, and campus protests against the Vietnam War-still resonate with relevance.

Prologue: A Word About Myself

This excerpt is from the introduction to The Haunted Fifties, one of several now out-of-print collections of I.F. Stone's writings.
July 1963

I am, I suppose, an anachronism. In this age of corporation men, I am an independent capitalist, the owner of my own enterprise, subject to neither mortgager or broker, factor or patron. In an age when young men, setting out on a career of journalism, must find their niche in some huge newspaper or magazine combine, I am a wholly independent newspaperman, standing alone, without organizational or party backing, beholden to no one but my good readers. I am even one up on Benjamin Franklin-I do not accept advertising.

The pieces collected in this volume are from a four-page miniature journal of news and opinion, on which I have been a one man editorial staff, from proofreader to publisher. This independence, like all else, has its price-the audience. My newspaper reaches a relative handful, but the five thousand readers with whom I started have grown to more than twenty thousand in ten years. I have been in the black every one of those ten years and paid off the loans which helped me begin, without having had to appeal to my readers or to wealthy friends to keep going. I pay my bills promptly, like a solid bourgeois, though in the eyes of many in the cold-war Washington where I operate I am regarded, I am sure, as a dangerous and subversive fellow. . . .