Henry George Seldes was an American investigative journalist, foreign correspondent, editor, author, and media critic best known for the publication of the newsletter In Fact from 1940 to 1950. He was an investigative reporter of the kind known in early 20th century as a muckraker, using his journalism to fight injustice and justify reform. But by his time the public mood had changed, and reader demand for muckraking was much weaker. According to historian Helen Fordham, Seldes's career demonstrates how those who crusaded too vehemently seemed to violate new standards of impartiality and objectivity. His work was often criticized as too radical.Influenced by Lincoln Steffens and Walter Lippmann, Seldes's career began when he was hired at the Pittsburgh Leader at the age of 19. In 1914, he was appointed night editor of the Pittsburgh Post.
In 1916, he went to the United Press in London. In 1917, during World War I, he moved to France to work at the Marshall Syndicate. He became a member of the press corps of the American Expeditionary Forces in France, section G-2D, and as such was commissioned as an officer, as were all journalists in that group.After World War I, Seldes spent ten years as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. In 1922, he interviewed Vladimir Lenin, and in 1923 he was expelled from the Soviet Union, along with three colleagues, for disguising news reports as personal letters; a letter his publisher wrote for the Soviets only facilitated his expulsion. The newspaper then sent him to Italy, where he implicated Benito Mussolini in opposition leader Giacomo Matteotti's murder. He was again expelled.In 1927, Seldes reported for the Chicago Tribune in Mexico, where he criticized the use of the country's mineral rights by American companies. He battled with the Tribune's owner and publisher, Colonel Robert McCormick, over the paper's altering of his Mexico articles, and soon afterward quit the Tribune over what he considered to be censorship.
In 1929, Seldes became a freelance reporter and author, subsequently writing a series of books and criticism about his years as a foreign correspondent, and the issues of censorship, suppression and distortion in the press. During the late 1930s he had one more stint as a foreign correspondent, with his wife Helen, for the New York Post, in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.
In 1940, Seldes co-founded a weekly newsletter, In Fact, subtitled "an Antidote to Falsehoods in the Daily Press." In it, he attacked corporate malfeasance, often using government documents from the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission . He exposed the health hazards of cigarettes and attacked the mainstream press for suppressing them, blaming the newspapers' heavy dependence on cigarette advertising. He cited J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI for anti-union campaigns, and brought attention to the National Association of Manufacturers' use of advertising dollars to produce news stories favorable to its members and suppress unfavorable ones.Having both staunch admirers and strong critics, Seldes influenced some younger journalists. He received an award for professional excellence from the Association for Education in Journalism in 1980 and a George Polk Award for his life's work in 1981. Seldes also served on the board of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting .