George’s academic life was derailed in late 1967 when he stumbled upon an effort to organize an anti-war Student Communications Network; he dropped out of school to join this movement and quickly became it’s lead organizer. This group began contributing to the recently-founded Liberation News Service, and by the following February it was operating as the LNS New York office.
The New York office grew in importance following the anti-war protests at Columbia in April 1968, and in July the original LNS team in Washington DC moved to New York to combine their operations. The merger was uneasy, and within a few weeks the original LNS founders split off again, causing an acrimonious dispute which took months to resolve.
Among the staff who moved from Washington to New York but did not split off was Sheila Ryan, with whom George developed a romantic relationship.
Over the subsequent years, they both became increasingly involved in international reporting, eventually taking a leave from LNS to work on a book about Palestine.
George described his initial engagement with the new left press in this reminiscence written in September 2000:
As for many of us, my experiences of LNS were profoundly transformative, consisting of a whole chain of experiences that radically affected my life. While I shared many of the links of this chain with others of you, its first set of links involve a part of the history of LNS that none of you experienced and most of you may not know.
To begin, LNS was absolutely not where my life was headed. In the mid 60s, I had been a radically apolitical doctoral student, working towards a dissertation on Wordsworth, but by the summer of 1967 the mayhem of the Vietnam war had brought to life an inner core of political morality in me of which I previously had not been aware. Then one afternoon in the fall as I was returning to my apartment at 200 Claremont, by chance my eye caught a sign at the window of storefront office on Broadway stating: “Meeting tonight to set up a communications center against the Vietnam war.” That evening, Colin Connery explained to us that the Student Communications Network, with a church grant, was to set up a network of telex connections to campus cities (the first being Berkeley, Ann Arbor and New York) so as to keep these areas continuously updated with the latest reports of anti-war activities. At the close of the meeting, Colin asked if anyone could serve as coordinator of the storefront office in which we were meeting–a person who would open up and be in the office every day. After a long awkward pause (people had jobs, classes, etc), I raised my hand (no more classes for me).
For someone who’d never participated in any sort of organizational or political work, I surprised myself repeatedly over the next few months with how rapidly the Network office expanded its activities. One of the first things I did was place an ad in the personals of the Village Voice asking for volunteers. So many people responded that within a short time dozens of people were doing office work and writing and editing reports and articles. Also, I learned of Liberation News Service’s existence in Washington DC and offered to telex news stories to them. Within weeks, writing news stories for LNS rather than writing interoffice reports for the other two Network campus offices became our prime focus–and as those offices never became seriously active, the whole idea of an intercampus telex network unlinked to news media quickly became moot.
By early spring 1968, the majority of the text in the LNS packets originated from LNS New York. At a meeting in Washington, Ray Mungo, Marshall Bloom and (I believe) Allen Young proposed to me that the whole LNS operation move to New York. I remember distinctly a conversation with Mungo in which he said that the Washington operation was in disarray and hoped that LNS would become reinvigorated with the energy of the New York operation. At the time I had become deeply convinced by discussions with experienced movement people that democratic collective organizational structures were not only superior politically and ethically, but also in terms of effectiveness and viability–the principle that those who did the work made the decisions. The one condition I put on behalf of the New York operation was that the staffs merge into a democratically functioning collective. The Washington people readily accepted that.
I returned to New York in search for a new office space that would become the home of LNS. 160 Claremont, a basement space that had long been off the rental market, previously having been a Chinese Restaurant–I found it by going building by building, talking to supers. Over a dozen (unpaid) people worked daily long hours for over a month to fix up that basement, building partitions, a dark room, a press room, a copy camera room, and painting them all in an array of psychedelic colors; shopping around for stolen IBM selectrics; getting phones and other equipment–I still have flashes of memory of that wonderful bunch of young people, none of whom ended up in the first collective, who put heart and soul into creating that office.