The astonishingly assiduous professional life of I.F. Stone (1907–89), who covered stories from the Sacco and Vanzetti trials to the Iran-Contra affair and became an icon to investigative journalists.
Born Isadore Feinstein in Philadelphia to a shopkeeper father, “Izzy” Stone came early to his profession, publishing a little newspaper as a youth. He never stopped writing. The Nation London correspondent Guttenplan (The Holocaust on Trial: History, Justice, and the David Irving Libel Case, 2001) begins on Dec. 12, 1949, when Stone appeared on Meet the Press as the Red Scare was about to explode. After debating the merits of national health insurance with Dr. Morris Fishbein, he didn’t appear on television again for decades. Stone’s radical positions in the McCarthy era ended one phase of his career—working for established journals—and began another: self-publishing I.F. Stone’s Weekly, which endured—and sometimes thrived, especially during Vietnam—for nearly 20 years. As much social and cultural history as biography—Guttenplan offers little about Stone’s personal life—the narrative serves as a textbook for those not alive during the Stone ages. The Depression, American Communism, the New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, the civil-rights movement, the Vietnam War, Israel and the Middle East, assassinations and political corruption and cultural characters of all sorts—these are all critical to an understanding of Stone’s life and work. Guttenplan, who began the book in 1990, makes certain that readers know what and who they are before he proceeds. Though largely admiring of Stone—praise occasionally supersedes analysis—the author reveals that Stone was a tough man to work for; no employee, except his wife, lasted long. His loyalties to fact and the truth trumped just about everything else, friendship included.
Prodigious research and a grateful heart inform this essential biography of an irreplaceable journalist.