Saturday, July 20, 2013

In Memoriam: Helen Thomas (1920-2013)

Helen Thomas
Legendary White House correspondent, Helen Thomas, has passed away at the age of 92.

If you are a journalist as I consider myself to be (I just loan myself to this blog), you have to admire the career of this legend as much as you have to be disappointed by the way that it ended.

As you may remember, Thomas, an Arab-American,
was forced into retirement after making offhand, recorded controversial statements about the Israel-Palestine continuing conflict.  She was never afraid to share an opinion, and that's sometimes what gets us journalists in trouble.  Sometimes our opinions get in the way of our storytelling.

Regardless, Thomas' career is one that many journalists will never have again.  After being laid off by the Washington Daily News, Thomas began a 57-year run as a reporter with the United Press International.  That is simply remarkable to be anywhere for 57 years.  She joined Hearst Newspapers shortly thereafter as an opinion columnist.

Her opinions often ran afoul of the George W. Bush Administration where she was moved from the front row of the James Brady White House Press Briefing Room to the back row.  Under President Obama, she found her seat back on the front row.

After her controversial comments and her subsequent retirement, she picked up a small gig for the Falls Church News Press writing a column.  She was still employed by the paper at her death.

When Thomas became a journalist in the 40's, it was common for women to write feature stories on non-hard news topics.  Thomas changed all that when she became a White House Correspondent covering John F. Kennedy.  From there, she covered every American President as a White House Correspondent until her 2010 resignation.  That would be Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.  That's 10 of the 44 Presidents.  She also covered Eisenhower's Administration as a reporter, so that makes 11 Presidents.

Along the way, she kicked down doors to the boys club of American journalism.  She brought women into the National Press Club.  She was the first female officer of that organization.  She was also the first female member of the White House Press Correspondents Association.  Above all, I believe Helen Thomas will be remembered to be as tough as she was controversial.  

1 comment:

varangianguard said...

I still miss seeing her in the front row of any White House press briefing I got to watch. She was one of the few reporters whose name I actually knew.