"Is Substack the Media Future We Want?" The New Yorker asked. "The newsletter service is a software company that, by mimicking some of the functions of newsrooms, has made itself difficult to categorize."
But there was a far more serious omission from Wiener’s article, as a Steve Nadler of Madison, Wisconsin (home state of the typewriter) pointed out in a letter to The New Yorker (published in the February 1 issue). Nadler said “what may be the most important American newsletter of the 20th Century, I. F. Stone’s Weekly”, had not been mentioned. “For nearly two decades, starting in 1953, it was a masterpiece of muckraking political journalism,” wrote Nadler. “Stone attacked McCarthyism and was one of the first journalists to challenge Lyndon B. Johnson’s account of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. By 1971, the newsletter had become essential reading for some 70,000 subscribers. One wishes that Stone had lived to cover the politics of the past four years.”
Isidor Feinstein Stone had had to cease publication of Stone’s Weekly on December 1, 1971, because of angina pectoris, and he died of a heart attack, aged 81, in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 18, 1989. In 1999, the New York University journalism department ranked his Weekly 16th among the top 100 works of journalism in the US in the 20th Century (Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail was 100th.). Included among those ahead of Stone’s Weekly were John Hersey’s “Hiroshima”, Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate investigations for the Washington Post, John Reed’s “Ten Days That Shook the World”, H.L. Mencken’s coverage of the Scopes “monkey” trial, Ernie Pyle’s reports from Europe and the Pacific during World War II and The New York Times publication of the Pentagon Papers, all efforts covered previously on this blog.
The editor of The Nation, Victor Navasky, said that plain, solid work characterised Stone's investigative journalism. He was an old-school reporter who did his homework and perused public-domain records (official government and private-industry documents) for the facts and figures, the data and quotations that would substantiate his reportage about the matters of the day. Stone said, “I made no claims to ‘inside stuff’. I tried to give information which could be documented, so the reader could check it for himself ... Reporters tend to be absorbed by the bureaucracies they cover; they take on the habits, attitudes and even accents of the military or the diplomatic corps. Should a reporter resist the pressure, there are many ways to get rid of him ... But a reporter covering the whole capital on his own -particularly if he is his own employer - is immune from these pressures.” Stone especially sought evidence of the US Government's legalistic incursions against the civil liberties and the civil and political rights of American citizens.
Despite US State Department efforts to deny him a passport, Stone travelled to Israel in 1956 and wrote the prescient words, “ … there will be wars and wars and wars until Israel comes to terms with the Palestinians ... the road to peace lies through the Palestinian refugee camp”. At the time of the Six-Day War in 1967, Stone wrote that superpower geopolitics were of secondary importance to the discontent of the Arabs and the Jews in the Levant.