George Seldes was a true human embodiment of unrelenting courage and bravery. The close attention he paid to the press and the subsequent criticisms he had of mainstream media were powerful and shed light on the pitfalls of the mainstream journalism industry.
What is upsetting is that most young, budding journalism students today most likely do not know who he is.
It seems that journalism has been commodified and glamorized into an industry where a person can achieve fame by being a charismatic, on-camera television anchor or working for a high-and-mighty outlet like CNN, NBC, ABC, The New York Times or any of the other major media networks. But simply having these young journalists focus solely on mainstream outlets has its downfalls, in which influential figures like George Seldes and I.F. Stone go unnoticed in journalism curriculum.
Many journalism schools and programs throughout the country seem to be formatted to industry standards. They are meant to mold their students into the next New York Times correspondent or the next Barbara Walters, Anderson Cooper or David Muir. The investigative work of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are heavily discussed, but the contributions of Seldes, Stone and Glenn Greenwald go largely ignored. But with this modeling of journalism curriculum on primarily mainstream outlets, students are not given the opportunity to look into other forms of journalism such as independent media or peace journalism.
Furthermore, placing so much emphasis on traditional models and mainstream media outlets often results in attitudes of apathy and complicity toward mainstream outlets. Outlets like ABC, CBS, and the New York Time are seen as trustworthy sources of news despite their obvious corporate ties and the ways in which they skew information to fit certain agendas. For instance, one can look at mainstream media’s complicity in the lead-up to the Iraq War as evidence of advancing a very particular agenda.
But what figures like Seldes revealed are the pitfalls in mainstream media. He looked at these media powerhouses and critically analyzed them to reveal the corruption of information happening behind the words on the pages. This is what journalism students today should be taught to do, instead of solely learning from the traditional journalism model. These budding reporters should be given opportunities to question these news outlets like Seldes did.
There has been an attitude of complete trust and apathy among journalism schools and its students in regards to addressing mainstream media outlets. But these schools should not be complicit in continuing to uphold a media industry that is becoming increasingly corporatized and commodified. They should encourage students to not only look critically at mainstream outlets, but to look beyond into independent media outlets and other non-traditional forms of journalism as viable career options.
Journalists like George Seldes are few and far between in today’s modern age, and it is leaving journalism schools apathetic in educating its students. Journalism schools should strive to not only build strong writers and reporters, but also raise a new generation of journalists that can transform the broken media system we have.