The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, March 06, 2004
 

George Seldes: a news legend who's news to me


I'm reading - skimming - Martin Mayer's Making News, when I read (p144)
For twenty years, George Selde's magazine In Fact was, with IF Stone's Weekly, the underground paper of the news business.

I know IF Stone [1]- I have a collection of his Kennedy/Johnson pieces somewhere that I suspect I've namechecked before [2]. But I had never heard of Seldes - despite his extraordinary longevity (1890-1995), colourful career and appearance in an Oscar-nominated documentary [3]Tell the Truth and Run.

Mayer says that
Seldes started on his career of exposing the manipulation of news stories after his copy desk excised from his story the name of the beer company that owned the truck that had been in an accident he was reporting as a cub in Pittsburgh.

He adds
That still happens.

I find that really, really hard to believe...

  1. Link has a quote from Stone:
    You may just think I am a red Jew son-of-a-bitch, but I'm keeping Thomas Jefferson alive.
  2. Extracted from the Weekly. Includes what I believe is the first English language piece questioning the veracity of the account given by USG of the second Tonkin Gulf Incident - a week to ten days after the event, from memory.

  3. A page on the docco also has links to other George Seldes material. The site, brasscheck.com looks worth checking out - the founder explains. (The reference is to Upton Sinclair's The Brass Check - which sparked several pieces here - work back from January 10)

MORE
Reading on a bit in Mayer's book, I come across (p160) a reference to
the six-hour coronation ceremonies of King George VI of England in 1938

This is a revised and updated edition of the book (1993), published by the Harvard Business School Press. And no one thought to check that George VI was in fact crowned on May 12 1937.

One cannot have too many examples of just how important the editing function is to any publishing operation, in whatever medium. (I intend this blog to be a living example of the point...)

Mayer's credibility just got remaindered. Damn!


STILL MORE

Whilst talking about the George VI coronation, worth mentioning a book (of which I have a reprint) produced not long afterwards by Mass Observation, largely made up from relevant extracts from diaries by observers.

A sort of blogging of its day - though the diaries weren't published as they were written. Mostly middle-class women wrote them, I think. (Mentioned here before in January 2003.)

Although the stuff is obviously filtered (self-censored by the authors, as well as edited for publication), its filters are contemporary. Which particular element of authenticity makes up for the fact that the content is fairly dull.

If the stuff were online, it would be a stupendous resource: it's not, so it's of limited use. Limited to those with the time and cash to visit Sussex University (Brighton) for a start.


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