VIDEO: I.F. Stone’s One Weird Trick To Do Great Journalism


By Jon Schwartz
The Intercept (5/7/15)

I.F. Stone was arguably the greatest investigative journalist of the last 100 years, the “Patron Saint of Bloggers” and one of the main inspirations of “Unofficial Sources.” If you already know and love Stone, check out parts one (above) and two (below) of a new video, “The Legacy of I.F. Stone.”

If you don’t know Stone but want to find out why he’s so beloved, the videos describe his approach and some of his accomplishments. They also feature Michael Moore, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill explaining why they love him. Most important is Stone’s bedrock principle: reporters should start from the presumption that powerful institutions are lying, rather than the presumption that they’re telling the truth.

Moore — who before he started making movies ran “Moore’s Weekly,” an homage to Stone’s one-man magazine, “I.F. Stone’s Weekly” — says this:

“I can draw a line from I.F. Stone directly to what I’m doing now … He played such an important role in inspiring me to think a different way. What his “Weekly” taught me was that it didn’t need to be fancy, it didn’t need to have a lot of production value. It just needed to tell the truth, and tell me things that I’m not going to learn anyplace else … His great motto [was] “All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed,” [but] he said to me, “I would expand that now to governments, corporations, it’s not just the government, it’s anybody in power.””

Greenwald, co-founding editor of The Intercept, describes his reaction when he first read Stone’s writing:

“Somebody had recommended highly that I begin reading what I.F. Stone’s journalism was about, and sent me a couple of links. And I read the first two and I was so blown away by them, I just instantly became almost an addict of the newsletters … and just began reading one after the next and didn’t stop until a month later when I had read not dozens but probably hundreds.”

Scahill, also co-founding editor of The Intercept, blurbs Stone like this:

“There are few people I can think of in American history that better represented the best journalism in a democratic society than I.F. Stone.”

And here’s Stone’s own description of what he did:

“I made no claim to inside stuff … I tried to give information which could be documented so the reader could check it for himself. I tried to dig the truth out of hearings, official transcripts and government documents, and to be as accurate as possible. I also sought to give the Weekly a personal flavor, to add humor, wit and good writing to the Weekly report. I felt that if one were able enough and had sufficient vision one could distill meaning, truth and even beauty from the swiftly flowing debris of the week’s news … the bit of dialogue, the overlooked fact, the buried observation which illuminated the realities of the situation. I tried in every issue to provide fact and opinion not available elsewhere in the press.”

So watch the videos, and then visit and read his writing — including 18 years of “I.F. Stone’s Weekly.” And if you’re especially inspired, apply to come work with us here at The Intercept.

(“The Legacy of I.F. Stone” was funded by the Knight Foundation and produced by White Pine Pictures of Toronto. Catalytic Diplomacy, which released the videos, is run by I.F. Stone’s son Jeremy.)

Link To Story And Part 1: 12-Minute Video And Part Two: 30-Minute Video