Sunday, November 29, 2009

Victor Riesel- A Great Jounalist

These days, there isn't much to praise in American journalism. Sean Hannity maintains that the news media has essentially died now that it has thrown away its little remaining objectivity and search for truth. I pretty much agree with him. Look at the New York Times, once the flagship newspaper in America, now reduced to an arm of the Democratic Party. Most newspapers in America have lost their sense of fairness-first in the editorial section, but also in the news section, in which they decide what they want to print, bury or slant depending on how the story fits into their ideology. Meanwhile, the readers are left to separate fact from opinion. While lamenting what our news media has become, it is fitting to look back on one of the great newspaper writers in our country's history. If you have not heard of him, you should learn about him. His name was Victor Riesel, and he was one of the most courageous writers this country has ever seen.

Victor Riesel was a columnist who wrote for the New York Post and later the New York Mirror. He was a native New Yorker born in 1914. In his youth, he worked in various plants and mines in places like Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Youngstown, where he became involved in unions and later wrote his observations for various labor publications. After a stint as editor of the New York Leader magazine, he joined the New York Post in 1941 and began writing a nationally-syndicated column.

Riesel's topic of choice was the mob infiltration into labor unions. I remember even as a boy reading Riesel's columns in the LA newspapers. His sources must have been incredible as he put out one expose after another about the corruption that went on in the unions. One wondered how long Riesel could continue to write about the connections between organized crime and labor unions before he was killed.

On April 5, 1956 at 3 am, Riesel left Lindy's restaurant shortly after completing a radio broadcast in which he spoke about the corrupt leadership of a Long Island local of the International Union of Operating Engineers. A man emerged from the shadows and threw acid directly into Riesel's eyes blinding him for life. The event, which shocked the entire nation, was attributed to the Lucchese crime family. The man believed to have thrown the acid was found shot to death in New York in July of the same year.

Rather than accept the message and step back from writing, Riesel simply learned to do his job in spite of his blindness. He was still able to type and had others edit for him. He continued to write for the Mirror and continued to expose the mob infiltration of the labor unions.

In addition, Riesel made radio and TV appearances as well as giving lectures. At one point, he served as president of the Overseas Press Club of America.

Riesel retired in 1990 and died in 1995 at the age of 81.

I can't think of any other writer in the media who has exhibited the courage of Victor Riesel. I wonder if the journalism schools in the US teach their students about this remarkable man.

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