Academic journal article Journalism History

Book Reviews -- Izzy-A Biography of I. F. Stone by Robert C. Cottrell

Academic journal article Journalism History

Book Reviews -- Izzy-A Biography of I. F. Stone by Robert C. Cottrell

Article excerpt

Cottrell, Robert C. Izzy-A Biography of I.F. Stone. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992. 388 pp. $14.95.

Suggestion: When you read Izzy, think of it in the context of a social history of investigative reporting, not just the first book-length biography of an icon of radical American journalism.

Some critics of this 1992 book have found flaws--with some justification-in this work as a definitive biography. Perhaps you will agree with historian-biographer Robert Cottrell, a history professor from California State University, Chico, that I.F. Stone was the last of the great American radicals. Or you may align yourself with New York Times book reviewer John B. Judis and find Stone to be "another brilliant intellectual whose brain was addled by the Russian Revolution." Whatever perspective you take, measure this ten-year effort by Cottrell as broader than mere commemoration of the life of the founder of I.F. Stone's Weekly Review.

The scope of Izzy is enormous. It covers the League of Nations, the American Socialist movement, the New Deal, World War II, and the presidential successions from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. Stone personifies the maturation of political journalism in the United States during a career that spanned the years between the leftist movements of the 1930s to the conservatism of the Reagan years. Stone died in 1989 at the age of 82.

Readers should focus on this work for its unabashed support of investigative reporting. It is a tribute to the role of good journalism in the strongest tradition of the responsibility of the Fourth Estate. Stone, Cottrell argues, lived this role, he did not just practice his duties as a journalist. Leave it to a historian to demonstrate the journalistic significance of Stone's work; it is regrettable that this work was not the effort of a journalism historian. We are indebted to Cottrell for this contribution to journalism literature.

Stone's life reflects the history of the American left. In interviews with Stone and his colleagues, as well as careful documentation of this research into Stone's writing and contemporary coverage of his work by journalists and political observers, Cottrell's biography offers valuable insight for contemporary readers seeking a better frame of reference for the absence of investigative journalism in that era. Here is where we come to understand that Stone became the role model for generations of muckraking journalists who learned to follow his lead, to understand that political leaders lie when they think it fits their purpose, and to ask tougher questions.

You cannot help but smile over Cottrell's account of the precocious teenage editor whose little Philadelphia neighborhood newspaper, The Progress, praised the League of Nations and criticized Hearst's yellow journalism and William Jennings Bryan. …

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