Seldes, George

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SELDES, GEORGE (1890–1995), U.S. journalist and author. Born in Alliance, New Jersey, Seldes was a crusading pamphleteer who wrote exposés of many facets of American life. He started as a reporter, and was night editor of the Pittsburgh Post (1910–16). Going to New York, he became managing editor of Pulitzer's Weekly (1916). He was a war correspondent during World War i, in Syria 1926–27, and in Spain 1936–37. His candid reporting led to his expulsion from more than one country, such as Russia and Italy. He served as head of the Berlin and Rome bureaus of the Chicago Tribune until he resigned in 1928 and returned to New York. From 1940 to 1950 Seldes, as a media critic, published a weekly bulletin of "inside" news called In Fact, which attained a circulation of 175,000. In 1941 he began writing about the dangers of tobacco but few newspapers would carry the stories, as many of their advertisers were cigarette companies.

Seldes, who lived to 104, spent his life fighting for a free, fair, and responsible press. In his view, the best formula for the media was "the facts fairly and honestly presented; truth will take care of itself."

In You Can't Print That (1929), The Truth Behind the News (1929), and Lords of the Press (1938), Seldes assailed what he considered the venality of American journalism. Sawdust Caesar (1935) was a debunking biography of Mussolini. His other books include Freedom of the Press (1935), Facts and Fascism (1943), Our Thousand Americans (1947), The People Don't Know (1949), Tell the Truth and Run (1953), The Great Quotations (1960), Never Tire of Protesting (1968), Even the Gods Can't Change History (1976), The Great Thoughts (1985), and his autobiography, Witness to a Century (1987), which he completed at age 96.

Richard Goldsmith's film Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press (1996) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

add. bibliography:

R. Holhut (ed.), The George Seldes Reader (1994).

[Lawrence H. Feigenbaum /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]