Tuesday, June 08, 2010

As Helen Thomas Continues to Extract Foot From Mouth, a Little Context

Outrage Over Her Anti-Semitic Remarks Trumped By Her Irrelevance

Patrick Gavin has an excellent takeout on Politico that puts as harsh a spotlight on the Helen Thomas F.U.B.A.R. as you would want for a washed-up 89-year-old hack whose relevance as a force in the White House press room really faded about 20 years ago, around the time the majority of major media had finished abandoning UPI.
Sure, there's lots that can rightly be said about Thomas being a trailblazer, a pointed questioner, a dogged chronicler of presidents going back to JFK, blah, blah, blah.
You can also say she was more than a tad overrated. Back when I was a cub reporter in the 1980s at UPI, I'd be able to see how Thomas' copy came into the desk. Suffice to say, those in the slot had their work cut out for them. She filed in multiple tasks. It was up to the editors to craft a narrative.
Granted, if you were on deadline and were banging out copy at a place where the slogan was "a deadline every minute," you often didn't have the time to make it pretty. But putting together stories like this was Helen's M.O. To her credit, she was the first to admit that her copy would be rewritten. She was a reporter first, a wordsmith a very distant second.
No doubt, she worked hard during her prime. Thomas and her UPI colleagues had no choice, because getting beat by the A.P. was not an option. She may have been a role model. But she was hardly the complete package as a journalist.
And now we find the same could be said about her as a human being. How sad, yet at the same time a valuable cautionary tale for anyone who thinks they're indispensable and doesn't know when to sign off. Instead, Thomas got the hook. She deserved nothing less.
Somewhere, a cabal of press secretaries for Republican presidents are having a damn good laugh, no doubt hoping the door hit Thomas good and hard on the way out.

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