Members to Name Editorial Contest

George Seldes or Andrew Kopkind to be honored.

AAN members will be asked later this month to name the annual editorial awards contest after either George Seldes (1890-1995) or Andrew Kopkind (1935-94), two fiercely-independent journalists who worked well outside the confines of the mainstream for most of their careers.

The process of naming the five-year-old contest began last fall, when the Editorial Committee authorized Executive Director Richard Karpel to poll members to gauge their interest in such a move. In December, Karpel conducted an e-mail ballot of publishers and editors, and over 90% of those who responded approved of the concept.

Karpel also asked members to nominate individuals who merit consideration as potential honorees. The late journalist I.F. Stone was mentioned most frequently, but his name was already taken: a non-profit organization affiliated with The Nation sponsors the I.F. Stone Student Journalism Awards. Kopkind and Seldes were the only other individuals who received multiple nominations. Both comfortably embody the ideals of alternative journalism.

Seldes was a newspaperman for over eighty years. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became America’s first full-time press critic, publishing In Fact, a newsweekly dedicated to press criticism and investigative reporting. After In Fact closed in 1950, he continued to write; by the time he died in 1995 at the age of 104, he had published 21 books. That same year, he was the subject of a documentary film, “Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Kopkind worked at the Washington Post and Time in the late 50s and early 60s. He became a political journalist in 1965 at The New Republic, and in 1982 he moved to The Nation, where he wrote until he died in 1994. His work appeared in a variety of different publications including the New Statesman, where he was U.S. correspondent in the late sixties; Mayday (later Hard Times) a newsletter he co-founded; and a number of AAN papers, including The Village Voice, Boston Phoenix, and LA Weekly. His only book, “The Thirty Years War: Dispatches and Diversions of a Radical Journalist,” was published posthumously.

Ballots will be mailed and e-mailed April 16 to every AAN editor and publisher. The members’ decision will be announced in May, and a presentation commemorating the new standard-bearer for excellence in alternative journalism will be held during the editorial awards lunch in New Orleans, scheduled for Thursday, July 12.