The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University is establishing an award that recognizes journalistic independence and honors the life of investigative journalist I.F. Stone. The I.F. Stone Medal will be presented annually to a journalist whose work captures the spirit of “independence, integrity, courage, and indefatigability” that characterized “I.F. Stone’s Weekly,” published from 1953 through 1971. Each year, the winner of the award will deliver a speech about his or her own experience with journalistic independence, to be followed by a workshop on the same topic.
Stone, who was born in 1907 and worked for several newspapers before establishing his weekly publication, believed fervently that dissenting voices are crucial in helping keep the United States true to its democratic ideals.
“It is this spirit of independent thinking that challenges punditry and conventional wisdom that we wish to honor,” said Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation. “The press, as an independent bedrock of our democracy, and the freedom of journalists to stand alone and apart from mainstream ideas and political currents are under great stress. Today, Izzy Stone serves as a model of the resolute, provocative journalist who worked against injustice and inequity, and loathed pomposity and false posturing, often at personal cost.”
Stone’s passion for speaking his mind incurred the wrath of the powerful. His opposition to Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his determination to expose the excesses of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover brought Stone under attack in the early 1950s.
The I.F. Stone Medal bears a likeness of an issue of “I.F. Stone’s Weekly” with a headline on the Tonkin Gulf affair, “All We Really Know Is That We Fired The First Shots.” Stone was one of only a few journalists who reported on the government’s false allegations that the North Vietnamese had attacked a U.S. destroyer; it was the claim President Lyndon Johnson used to persuade the Senate to approve the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, committing the country to the Vietnam War.
Giles explained that the Nieman Foundation’s purpose in creating the award grows from its mission to “promote and elevate the standards of journalism” and its commitment to the Watchdog Journalism Project, a Web site (http://www.niemanwatchdog.org) that presents independent assessments of topics in the news and poses questions the press should be asking.
“We hope that the attention drawn to the award and ideas from the workshop discussion will encourage journalistic independence,” he said.
An advisory committee of journalists will be formed to establish a process for nominations and selection of the medal winner. Jeremy J. Stone, elder son of I.F., will chair the committee. Jeremy is the former president of the Federation of American Scientists (1970-2000) and current president of Catalytic Diplomacy.
An endowment fund for the I.F. Stone Medal, with an anonymous matching gift of $100,000, has been established at Harvard University.