Parry’s Speech at I.F. Stone Award

On Oct. 22, Consortiumnews Editor Robert Parry received the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence from Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. Stone was an iconoclastic journalist who published I.F. Stone’s Weekly during the McCarthy era and the Vietnam War, setting a standard for independence that Parry has tried to follow.

By Robert Parry

I want to thank the Nieman Foundation for this honor, and especially Bill Kovach and Myra MacPherson for thinking I deserved it. It’s a special honor for me because I admired I.F. Stone’s independent journalism way back in college. I even lobbied the school library to subscribe to his newsletter. Reading it weekly shaped how I came to view journalism, as a profession that required endless skepticism.

And I had the privilege of meeting him once in the early 1980s. I was an investigative reporter for the Associated Press in Washington. I had gotten hold of some classified records about financial misconduct in El Salvador. He called and asked if he could read the documents. I said sure and he showed up at the AP office on K Street. Through his thick glasses, he spent a couple of hours poring through the papers.

Journalist Robert Parry

Journalist Robert Parry

 

Though I shared Stone’s view that journalists should be the consummate outsiders, I came to the profession as a mainstream journalist. But I never forgot his insistence on maintaining your independence, whatever the pressures. To me, the core responsibility of a journalist is to have an open-mind toward information, to have no agenda, to have no preferred outcome. In other words, I don’t care what the truth is; I just care what the truth is. That’s the deal you make with your readers, to follow the facts wherever they lead.

I also consider this award a recognition of what we’ve accomplished at Consortiumnews.com over the past two decades. This honor goes to the many talented reporters and analysts who have written for us. They have made Consortiumnews a place where you can find thoughtful, well-researched, well-reported information, stories well worth reading nearly every day of the year.

For those of you who don’t know much about Consortiumnews, here’s a brief history. The project began out of my frustration with the mainstream news media where I spent many years. I worked at the AP from 1974 to 1987. I was perhaps best known for breaking many of the stories that we now know as the Iran-Contra scandal. These included the first article about a little known Marine officer named Oliver North and with my AP colleague Brian Barger the first story about how some of the Nicaraguan Contras got themselves mixed up in the drug trade.

To say that these and other stories weren’t always popular would be an understatement. But they were well-reported and borne out when the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in late 1986. I then got a job offer from Newsweek and felt it was time to move on. Sadly, I had burned many bridges at AP in the fights to push our stories to the wire.

But what I found at Newsweek was even more troubling, an allegiance more to the powerful than to the public. At senior levels, there was a stubborn reluctance to pursue the Iran-Contra scandal to its roots — out of fear that it could destroy another Republican president. This may sound odd, but the attitude inside Newsweek and the Washington Post Company was that “we don’t want another Watergate.” Another constitutional crisis was not deemed good for the country.

So, I left Newsweek in 1990 and worked on some documentaries for PBS Frontline. But it was becoming increasingly clear to me that the space for serious investigative journalism was closing down. With the arrival of Bill Clinton, there was a market for silly, tawdry scandals. But there was even less interest in the unsolved mysteries of the 1980s — old, complicated stuff without much sex.

But a key moment occurred in late 1994 when I got access to the raw files of a congressional inquiry into an Iran-Contra spinoff scandal, the so-called October Surprise case, whether Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980 sought an electoral advantage by secretly undermining President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran. After the 1994 elections when Republicans gained control of Congress but before they actually took power I saw an opportunity to get hold of the unpublished files.

I got approval from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was directed to some offices that had been installed in the Rayburn House parking garage. When I got there, I was met by a young staffer who led me through the warren of cubicles to an abandoned ladies room. There, the boxes of files were piled up on the floor. He reminded me that I would be allowed to copy only 12 pages on an old copier machine around the corner in the office. He went back to his seat, calling a girlfriend about Christmas plans and I started ripping open the boxes.

To my surprise, some of the boxes contained secret and top secret documents. So, I volunteered to make the copies on the old machine which kept jamming. But I assured my watcher that I knew how to fix this kind of copier. Eventually, I had my dozen pages and got them out of the Capitol without anyone noticing. I returned a couple of more times to copy more documents.  Next, I prepared a summary that I felt would change the history of the 1980s. But I couldn’t find anyone interested in publishing the material.

So, one day in 1995, I was grousing about this state of affairs when my oldest son Sam, who had just finished college, said that instead of complaining, why didn’t I publish my information on the Internet. He said there were things called Web sites. I really knew next to nothing about these matters, but I listened. Sam though not a techie figured out how to build a Web site. With the Internet in its infancy, there were no templates back then. We launched our no-frills Web site without fanfare in November 1995 as the first investigative magazine based on the Internet.

The original idea was to provide a home for neglected investigative journalists and their work. I thought I could raise significant amounts of money from a variety of sources, hence the clunky name Consortiumnews. But I soon learned that “independent journalism” while popular in the abstract is not something people really want to invest much in. They’d prefer to know how the stories are likely to come out. So we always struggled with money, but we did build a loyal readership who kept us going with small donations.

To my pleasant surprise, I also discovered that a number of ex-CIA analysts were also looking for a place to publish their work. They shared our concern that the United States was veering away from fact-based policies. They felt that this decoupling from reality was careening the country toward international catastrophes. And they were right.

I’d be happy to respond to any questions about specific issues that we have dealt with over the past two decades, from world affairs to domestic politics. But suffice it to say that what we mostly do is take on mindless “group thinks” of which there are many in Official Washington. We are relentlessly independent. That may not make us popular with some people, but I think I.F. Stone would approve.

Thank you.

 

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30 comments for “Parry’s Speech at I.F. Stone Award

  1. Stefan
    October 26, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Congratulations mr Parry.

    You’r work is very important, it is critical, and is a beacon of light, that helps me to navigate between this treacherous terrain, swamped with propaganda and lies.

    Thank you for all your work and for this important site.

  2. Ray McGovern
    October 26, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Congrats, Bob. Thanks for teaching me about what good journalism can be. ray

  3. Joe L.
    October 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Congratulations Mr. Parry.

  4. Lazar Hristic
    October 26, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Izzy leaves ., thank you

  5. Pat Flowers
    October 26, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    In the sixties It was my desire to major in Journalism. However, the more I read and observed, the less I saw the me I wanted to be. I changed my major. How wonderful after all these years, to hear and read you. You are doing exactly what independent, investigative journalists should do. Now I see myself through you. Thank you!

    • SFOMARCO
      October 27, 2015 at 2:32 am

      Yeah, the Sixties. My favorite library study table happened to be located next to the shelf where the I.F. Stone Weekly was filed loosely in an open-ended box. A fascinating read. But It seems great independent journalists still cannot effect change when it is sorely needed. Congratz to Robert Parry for keeping the I.F. Stone flame burning.

  6. Ray Carney
    October 26, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I am a professor in a major East Coast university College of Communication that is headed by a former newspaper editor who serves as my Dean (and my boss). There was a time universities, their faculties, and curricula were separate from, and inherently critical of, the shortcomings of the larger culture. That time is past, alas. I see the fatal, debilitating compromises of “careerism” and “professionalism” all around me in the academic world–in the quest for PR-enhancing favorable press coverage, in the curriculum, in the faculty appointment and promotion process, in the list of invited speakers, in the awards, plaudits, and honorary degrees given out, in the examples cited for students to emulate, in the course reading lists–alll ineluctably informing and shaping the belief-systems being transmitted to the next generation of journalists, shaping their values and understandings of the world–and all justified in the name of preparing them to “get a job” and “function in the real world” (as if the world of ideals and ethics and principles were the unreal one). It’s wonderful to know that Izzy Stone’s values are being kept alive and passed on to the young by a few souls who can see beyond economics and PR. Bravo to Robert Parry for being part of that process, and thank goodness for the leadership of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation in recognizing its importance. — Prof. Ray Carney

  7. WG
    October 26, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Mr. Parry,

    Congratulations on the well deserved award :)

  8. Bill Bodden
    October 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    As an admirer of “Izzy” Stone and Walter Karp, I am immensely grateful as this nation should be for journalists such as Robert Parry and his writers at ConsortiumNews who combine real journalism and history so well..

  9. Joe Tedesky
    October 26, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I am happy for you Mr Parry, and still thrilled about my discovery of consortiumnews. I would also like to show some appreciation to your son Sam, it’s good you listened to his advise, or we wouldn’t be here right now corresponding with you and all of the great commenters here.

    Recently, I came across an interview on CNN with Wolf Blizter, of a young congress lady who impressed me with her truth telling in regard to the Syrian debacle. Her name is Tulsi Gabbard, and we need to learn more about her. Possibly, do some of your investigative reporting on her. We need to rally behind congressional members like Gabbard, and protect them from becoming corrupted by the system.

    Have a listen to her brief interview;
    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/10/congresswoman-and-member-of-the-house-armed-services-committee-tells-the-truth-about-syria.html

    Once again Mr Parry congratulations, you work hard, and deserve the praise…and the award.

    • Thomas Minnehan
      October 27, 2015 at 12:52 am

      Congratulations, Mr Perry. Your work and those at Consortiumnews is like a ray of light in the rubbish of the media. Thank You!

      I also saw the interview with Rep Tulsi Gabbard. I was astonished that we still had people like her in congress who could speak with common sense and logic about our incoherent policies in the mid east. I just hope “they” do not grind her down because she is truly amazing.

    • Yuliy
      October 28, 2015 at 9:56 am

      Joe,
      Thank you for providing this link – it made me feel so much better. This is the first time I could hear and see a member of Congress who is not a complete lunatic regarding Syrian crisis. We do need to follow Tulsi Gabbard… But I’m afraid we’ll never hear from her again – never on CNN for sure…
      Thanks again.

  10. alexander
    October 26, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Dear Mr Parry,

    i would like to congratulate you on this award….but more importantly I would like to thank you for the years of outstanding journalism you have provided all the readers of “consortium news”.

    “Real” journalism, almost a completely” lost art” these days, is alive and well on the pages of “consortium” thanks to you .

    What enormous integrity you have shown not only toward your craft but to an outlook that exemplifies all the best aspects of society..

    Please keep up the great work.

  11. Pat D.
    October 26, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Congratulations and thank you, Mr. Larry. Many thumbs up. 🏹 Forgive the emoji but yours is an arrow that flies straight into the heart of darkiness.

  12. October 26, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Congratulations, Bob. Well deserved. I’m surprised there even IS such an award today, but I can think of no one worthier to win it. Great speech.

  13. Ethan Allen
    October 26, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Congradulations Mr. Parry!!!!! As a subscriber of ConsortiumNews for most of the past two decades, I can attest to you and your consortium of fellow journalists being amongst the most forthright and informative seekers and conveyors of reliable information currently serving our troubled society; indeed, the tradition of I.F. Stone is well represented by your efforts and integrity.
    I have taken the liberty to post access to this article on The//Intercept, and would likewise submit herein this reporting by Jeremy Scahill.
    https://theintercept.com/drone-papers
    Thank you once again for all you do.
    As Usual,
    EA

  14. October 26, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Mr. Parry,
    Congratulations on receiving the well-deserved I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. World peace is possible, truth is its foundation, and you and your fellow writers here at Consortium News efforts in that new paradigm on Earth direction have earned all the admiration, respect and love you may receive. Thank you profoundly.

  15. John B
    October 26, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Good speech and an award very well deserved. The Nieman people have recognized and motivated the essential spirit of investigative journalism, one of the few lights left on in the US. I hope that you redouble your much-needed efforts, and will contribute as usual.

  16. John B
    October 26, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Good speech and an award very well deserved. The Nieman people have recognized and motivated the essential spirit of investigative journalism, one of the few lights left on in the US. I hope that you redouble your much-needed efforts, and will contribute as usual.

  17. Barbara Burris
    October 26, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    I’m a big fan of “On Point,” a nightly feature of NPR, and I just happened to catch your interview with Tom Ashbrook. Simply great! Congrats on your well-deserved award; henceforth I will be following with interest your publications. Thank you for honest news reporting!

  18. F. G. Sanford
    October 27, 2015 at 8:33 am

    Congratulations are surely in order.
    There are few who can match this reporter.
    He’s no slave to fashion and few have that passion,
    He’s not a mainstream press recorder!

    I’m glad that the comments are bubbling
    With praise and not factional grumbling
    But there’s one aberration that in my observation
    Draws attention to something quite troubling.

    Why do some fans call him Perry?
    It’s an error that seems quite contrary.
    He’s not Aaron Burr but that shouldn’t infer
    That he’s intuitively any less wary!

    Perry Mason and Chief Ironside
    Would be flattered, that can’t be denied-
    But it’s Parry, not Perry who writes commentary
    That merits reportorial pride!

    • Joe Tedesky
      October 27, 2015 at 10:37 am

      I’d love to put some of your lyric, to music.

      • F. G. Sanford
        October 27, 2015 at 11:06 am

        It would be Consortium Blues. By the way, that should have said Raymond, not Aaron Burr! Brain farts from an old fart!

    • Gregory Kruse
      October 27, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      I wouldn’t put up with this from anybody else.

  19. incontinent reader
    October 27, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Videos of the I.F. Stone presentation, including Bob’s acceptance speech- as well as his interview on NPR can all be viewed at:

    http://nieman.harvard.edu/events/robert-parry-receives-i-f-stone-medal-for-journalistic-independence/#video

    Great to read. Even better to hear. Congratulations, Bob!

  20. Don North
    October 27, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Congrats Bob!!! Remember I.F. Stone advised “Never believe anything until its been officially

    denied. ”

    Cheers

    Don North

  21. rexw@iinet.net.au
    October 27, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Well done, Robert Parry.

    The standards you have set and maintained all this time are a credit to both you and the independent writers you support and who support you in Consortium. May it continue to be the case..

    You should never think for a minute that your readership is limited to the USA. It is not.

    In my country, it is read every day by those people starved for the truth, as would be most readers anywhere in the world. The independence you referred to in your speech this week is truly evident in your writings, in particular, by example, in your pursuit of some level of truth in the lies surrounding the MH 17 disaster which, thanks to the devious activities of people like John Kerry, will remain unresolved to the satisfaction of journalists such as you, and rightly so.

    That has been a criminal act on a par with Kennedy’s assassination and 9/11, all “unresolved”, all having been given the Hans Christian Andersen treatment. Situation normal.

    However, what we have seen as a result, although it does not in any way require confirmation, is that the world’s press is not in any way independent but is the slave of governments, particularly in the USA. Makes one wonder how anyone with any decency can draw down a salary from the major publications, particularly any publication owned by the likes of Murdoch,. How long would any writer last in his employ having the propensity to tell it as it really is. As such he is a pariah in the true sense of the word. having established the climate in the US where thanks to his idea of the news, national apathy is the norm. It should in truth be called the “Netanyahu News Service”.

    Now that is the ever-present danger throughout this world of ours.

    Well, such things are identified regularly by Robert Parry and his ilk and the world should be thankful that such men do exist. When a majority can recognise their worth, we will be on the way back from sliding down the greasy pole to WW III, just around the corner.

  22. October 27, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Congratulations to Bob Parry and to Consortium. Its one of the best and most uncompromised web sites on the entire Internet. He deserves that award.

    And please look at that CNN interview with the rep from Hawaii. How did the views of Consortium get on the MSM?

  23. October 28, 2015 at 12:15 am

    My sincere appreciation for your vitally important truth telling. Enjoyed your On Point interview. I. F. Stone would love you. Maybe it’s time for a “R. Parry Weekly” bringing back Iggy’s format for today’s radicals.

  24. Paul Grenier
    November 2, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Am writing to simply join the chorus. A very well-deserved honor. And thank God they recognized who deserved it. A good sign, nonetheless.

Comments are closed.