” The suppressed tobacco story ” – George Seldes

This article belongs to the journalism of verification for several reasons. First, the journalist George Seldes gives precise facts : they are dated and localized. He uses a lot of quotations, with the name and the position of the sources. He also confronts several sources for a same fact : for example, he compares what affirms The Herald Tribune with the report of The Federated Press about the diffusion of the tobacco story. This brings credibility to the article.

Moreover, the journalist explains his motivations : through this article, he denounces the media dependence and venality about tobacco advertising. In order to prove what he claims (“Smoking shortens life.”), he uses scientific statements and quotes doctors. The extracts from scientific newspapers are composed of a lot of tables and numbers. The tables are different but support the same idea : it is easier for the readers to understand and validate the information.

George Seldes also gives an explanation about Dr Pearl’s method for his survey. This survey is an important argument for the journalist and he makes it credible by quoting the doctor who explains how he chose his cases.

The journalist doesn’t hesitate to give the names of the newspapers which suppressed the story. He also uses a SEC report with the precise names and numbers of the cigarette companies and their advertising spending.

He stays prudent with his affirmations (“If any newspaper used it”) but he judges the comportment of the other editorial teams : “ […] for any newspaper which had the courage to publish anything about such matters. “ ; “ […] the labor press (which is not venal […])”. The facts still are first. He gives a conclusion and an explanation of them but after questioning the assumptions and the veracity of the facts.

Through the article, he mostly uses the active voice : “Most doctors believe that […]”, “Six cigarette companies grossed $200,000,000 in 1937”, “In New York the Herald Tribune, Sun, News, Mirror, Post and Journal-American suppressed this story”.  This gives the reader an impression of strength. The article is easier to read and to understand.

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