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Lessons to be Learned from George Seldes

In Press Critic George Seldes Leaves a Legacy of Courage, Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon outlined what separated Georges Seldes from traditional mainstream reporters. Seldes frequently questioned stories the government was telling and went directly to the source, instead of relying on what other people were spewing. It would have been much easier for him to follow the path of the majority of reporters; he would have been guaranteed a job, he would have had built in readership, and the FBI wouldn’t have had a 5,000-page investigation on him. He did journalism the way he thought it should be done, despite the struggles and consequences.

Journalists today should look at the Seldes did and learn from it. It’s just as easy today to follow the mainstream media career path and not question authority and regurgitate information. However, today it is easier to do the work Seldes did because of our access to information on the Internet. He had to go out and uncover the stories he was telling that the mainstream media was ignoring. There are an endless amount of records and information that independent journalists can access and tell stories that are hidden or aren’t being told. Seldes saw the importance in telling the stories that were controversial and off the beaten path, and journalists today should take also see the same importance.

While Seldes approached his work from a national and international perspective, journalists should also consider replicating his work at a local and state level. Local and state governments are just as likely to be hiding stories as the national government, and local reporters are most likely still not telling the stories they should. There are different ways and to different degrees that Seldes’s style of journalism can be used. The point is to tell the important story, regardless of who doesn’t want it told.

Seldes’s work showed it wasn’t always easy work, but that should not stop journalists from following the standards he set. With more people doing the kind of journalism he did, the more likely corruption and wrongdoings will be exposed. Even if readership is low, his publication only reached a circulation of 176,000 copies, the right people may read the story to make it spread. The focus shouldn’t be on popularity or fame or money, these things were clearly not Seldes’s focus; the focus should be upholding journalistic ethics and integrity.

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