March 17, 2015
Columbia Journalism Review Launches Annual Review of the White House Press Corps Funded by the Helen Thomas Fund
The Columbia Journalism Review has established the Helen Thomas Fund to support the annual publication of a substantial article to assess the performance of the White House Press Corps based on pertinent interviews, briefings, and transcripts of the previous year’s presidential press conferences. The Fund was created in memory of the late Helen Thomas, the trailblazing White House correspondent.
The first article supported by the Helen Thomas Fund, titled “The Presidency and the Press,” appears in the March/April 2015 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review and was written by Susan Milligan. Milligan is a Washington, DC-based freelance writer who covered the White House in the 1990s for the New York Daily News, and from 2009-2010 for the Boston Globe.
Elizabeth Spayd, editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, said “CJR is thrilled to be able to publish a piece examining the role of the White House Press Corps over the past year. Thanks to the support of Ralph Nader, in memory of Helen Thomas, we were able to support this type of in-depth reporting. It involved dozens of interviews and a review of transcripts from every press conference in 2014.”
Ralph Nader said:
“There will never be another Helen Thomas for she shattered forever one anti-woman journalistic barrier after another in the Washington press corps and rose to the top of her profession’s organizations. Helen Thomas asked tough questions of presidents and White House press secretaries and over her sixty-two year career took on sexism, racism and ageism. She endured prejudice against her Arab-American ethnicity and for breaking the taboo regarding the rights of dispossessed Palestinians. She also made many friends in journalism and spoke to audiences all over the country about the responsibility of journalists to hold politicians responsible with tough, probing questions that are asked repeatedly until they are either answered or the politician is unmasked as revealingly evasive. That is the example she set as a journalist and was the recurrent theme in three of her books.
Helen Thomas’ free spirit, her courageous belief that injustice must be exposed by journalists, her congenial personality and her relentless focus will be long remembered. Her tenacious, forthright approach to journalism stands as a stark contrast to the official source journalism of too many of her self-censoring White House press colleagues.
This remarkable combination of skills and perseverance will distinguish Helen Thomas as one of the greats of American journalistic history.
Helen Thomas believed in the advice Joseph Pulitzer gave to his reporters a century ago—that their job was to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’
We hope this fund will help journalists, especially female journalists, persevere as did the pioneering Helen Thomas.”
The article can also be found online at: http://www.cjr.org/analysis/the_president_and_the_press.php.
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