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Sunday, July 21, 2013

5 things to know about Helen Thomas

Here are five things to know about Helen Thomas, the groundbreaking White House correspondent, who died Saturday at age 92:

Her journalism career started in 1943, an era when female reporters were confined to stories about presidents’ kids, wives, their teas and their hairdos.

She was sent by UPI to cover the vacation of President-elect John Kennedy and his family.

As United Press International’s White House bureau chief, she became the first woman in that role for a wire service.

It was Pat Nixon who announced Thomas was engaged to Douglas Cornell, chief White House correspondent for the archrival Associated Press. They married in 1971.

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she told a rabbi who was interviewing her. “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, it’s not Poland.” She soon retired from her job as a Hearst columnist.

Grand Ol' Lady and Agressive Journalist Helen Thomas RIP at 92

White House journalist Helen Thomas remembered as a trailblazer

Alex Wong / Getty Images file

Veteran reporter Helen Thomas (C) asks a question to U.S. President Barack Obama during a news conference at the East Room of the White House May 27, 2010 in Washington, DC. Thomas passed away Saturday at age 92.

She asked the tough questions, always sat front and center and drew the president's attention, brought a sense of history and perspective to her reporting and blazed a trail for female journalist to come.But above all, she was intelligent, honest and brought real insight to the worlds she reported.
As news spread of Helen Thomas’ death Saturday, journalists, politicians and admirers paid homage to the trailblazing reporter who was a fixture at White House daily briefings for decades.

"Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Helen Thomas.  Helen was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism," President Barack Obama said in a statement.

"She never failed to keep presidents - myself included - on their toes.  What made Helen the 'Dean of the White House Press Corps' was not just the length of her tenure, but her fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account," he added.Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton said in a statement that Thomas was "a pioneering journalist" who added "more than her shares of cracks to the glass ceiling."

"Her work was extraordinary because of her intelligence, her lively spirit and great sense of humor, and most importantly her commitment to the role of a strong press in a healthy democracy," the Clintons said in the statement.

Female journalists took to Twitter to thank the woman who many said helped shatter the perception that political journalism was a profession only suited for bourbon-quaffing men.
“Helen Thomas made it possible for all of us who followed: woman pioneer journalist broke barriers died today,” tweeted NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.

“Any woman who has had the privilege of sitting in the front row of the White House briefing room owes huge debt of gratitude to Helen Thomas,” tweeted Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press.

“RIP Helen Thomas - died this morning at 92. Amazing trail blazer, fearless journalist and friend & mentor to so many women reporter,” Judy Woodruff, host of PBS Newshour, tweeted.

Thomas was also remembered fondly by those who faced her brash style of questioning in the White House briefing room.

“Rest in peace, Helen Thomas. First day I ever took the podium she came to encourage me,” tweeted Dana Perino, who served as press secretary to President George W. Bush.
She loved her job, and Thomas' colleagues said it showed in all of the 49 years she spent as a member of the White House press corps.

“I asked Helen Thomas about her life choices she said, 'I would still be a reporter. I consider that my greatest decision in life,'" tweeted CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer.

Thomas career ended in 2010 when she abruptly retired after saying Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine."

“Helen Thomas died Saturday in D.C. Glass ceiling breaking journalist--1st female Gridiron member. Later controversial. Rest in Peace,” tweeted Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet.

"Women and men who've followed in the press corps all owe a debt of gratitude for the work Helen did and the doors she opened," White House Correspondents Association President Steven Thomma said in a statement. "All of our journalism is the better for it."


Helen Thomas 2009.jpg

Helen Thomas in February 2009

Helen Thomas (August 4, 1920 – July 20, 2013) was an American author and news service reporter, member of the White House press corps and opinion columnist. She worked for the United Press and post-1958 successor United Press International (UPI) for 57 years, first as a correspondent, and later as White House bureau manager. She was a columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, writing on national affairs and the White House. She covered the administrations of eleven U.S. presidents—from the final years of the Eisenhower administration to the second year of the Obama administration.
Thomas was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents' Association, and the first female member of the Gridiron Club. She wrote six books; her latest, with co-author Craig Crawford, is Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do (2009). Thomas retired from Hearst Newspapers on June 7, 2010, following controversial comments she made about Israel, Israeli Jews and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[1]

Al-Jazeera Under Fire For Its Coverage Of Egypt

Al-Jazeera's Live Egypt channel broadcast images of sparsely attended opposition protests during late June and early July. In reality, the areas were almost always full of protesters opposing then-President Mohammed Morsi — the network chose times of day when those areas were empty.

The past two weeks in Egypt have been a real test for the TV network Al-Jazeera. Accusations that the network is biased toward the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi have resulted in arrests, threats and resignations.

On the last day of June and the first days of July, as millions of Egyptians took to the streets to call for Morsi's downfall, Al-Jazeera was there.

The network's . The pro-Morsi areas of Cairo were almost always shown as full. The anti-Morsi areas were shown as empty.

Posters in Cairo show Al-Jazeera's logo in red with a bloody hand scratching at it. A bullet can kill a man, the poster says, but a lying camera can kill a nation.

Posters in Cairo show Al-Jazeera's logo in red with a bloody hand scratching at it. A bullet can kill a man, the poster says, but a lying camera can kill a nation.

It was later revealed that the anti-Morsi areas were usually packed — Al-Jazeera just showed them at the times of day that they were empty.

Then came the killing of more than 50 pro-Morsi demonstrators by Egyptian security forces. Some Al-Jazeera reports initially said the number was in the hundreds.

The military later held a press conference on the killings. An Al-Jazeera correspondent was booed out of the room by other reporters.

For Haggag Salama, who had freelanced for Al-Jazeera for 10 years, the misreporting of the number of slain protesters was the last straw. He called another local TV station and announced his resignation on air.

Salama says Al-Jazeera had no sources and exaggerated the numbers to favor the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the days that followed, reports surfaced that some 20 more Al-Jazeera employees had quit — although at least one might have been a fake and others now say they will probably go back.

Media watchers say it's important to stress the difference between , and . The latter is the channel most well-known in the U.S., and Al-Jazeera English correspondents maintain their coverage is unbiased.

They also say part of what's happening in Egypt is a witch hunt by some Egyptians who are now rabidly anti-Morsi and anti-Muslim Brotherhood. Other Islamist channels have been closed down since Morsi's ouster.

Related NPR Stories

Posters around Cairo show Al-Jazeera's logo in red with a bloody hand scratching at it. A bullet can kill a man, the poster says, but a lying camera can kill a nation.
Either way, the Al-Jazeera name has taken a hit, says Marwan Kraidy, who studies Arab media at the University of Pennsylvania. And it's time for the network to do some soul-searching.

"There might be some room for changing," Kraidy says. "And I do hope that that does happen. Because otherwise ... you're running what's truly an internationally unique institution that had its moment of brilliance into the ground."

Al-Jazeera's loss of credibility also reflects a loss of credibility for its main backer, Qatar.
Talk-show host Bassem Yousef, who is often described as the Jon Stewart of Egypt, recently , with songs and flags and costumes.

Kraidy says now that Morsi has been deposed, Qatar lost more than face.

"In addition to several billion dollars that they had invested in Mr. Morsi and his government in aid, they really lost a lot of influence in what remains a very, very major country," Kraidy says.

The new emir of Qatar, who took power just last month, will now have to decide whether he wants to reshape Al-Jazeera, his country's best-known brand name, Kraidy says.

For the full audio and video of this story from NPR, click here.

John Stuart. Aftermath of the Zimmerman Verdict, American Propaganda, and More

« previous episode

Before Jon Stewart Was on Bassem Youssef's Show

Back in 2011, OTM talked to Bassem about his satirical news inspiration.

Discussions of race following George Zimmerman's acquittal, anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy joins "The View," and American propaganda allowed stateside.

After the Verdict

Last Saturday, George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Since then, everyone from protesters to politicians to pundits have weighed in. Brooke talks to Tampa Bay Times media critic Eric Deggans about the reaction and how the verdict has reignited discussions of race in the U.S.

A Dangerous "View"

This week, ABC announced that model, comedian, and anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy would be joining the hit daytime talk show The View. Bob looks at the controversy surrounding her hiring and at the media's description of McCarthy's "controversial" views.

American Propaganda Allowed Stateside

The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act was intended to shield U.S. citizens from American propaganda, which the State Department has been broadcasting abroad for decades. This month, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act takes effect, allowing that material to be broadcast stateside. Bob talks with Washington State Democrat and bill co-sponsor Adam Smith who says there is no need to worry.

How Threatening Was Domestic Propaganda?

The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act goes into effect this month, lifting prior domestic broadcast bans on U.S. propaganda. Bob talks to historian Thomas Fleming, author of The Illusion of Victory: America in World War One, about how powerful domestic propaganda was in the past, and how unlikely it is to have much impact today.

Voice of America

We are often reminded of the privileges we enjoy as Americans, but here's one thing we can't do on native soil - tune in to Voice of America. The U.S. government radio station that was created as a propaganda tool during World War II was prohibited from broadcasting at home. In an interview that originally aired in 2003, Brooke talks to lifetime VOA staffer Alan Heil about his book Voice of America: A History.
Shigeto - Ringleader

An Ethical Framework for Sponsored Content

Sponsored content, or "native advertising," is increasingly becoming a source of revenue for the financially strapped news media. But this can be dangerous territory since native advertising is often made to resemble the actual editorial content. Bob talks to Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at the PR firm Edelman, about an ethical framework for navigating the murky waters of sponsored content partnerships.

Axis Sally

More than fifty years ago, Mildred Gillars was released from prison.  Known more widely as Axis Sally, Gillars broadcasted pro-Nazi propaganda during World War II on German state radio.  After the war, she became one of the only women ever convicted of treason in the United States. In an interview from 2011 Brooke talks to historian Richard Lucas, who wrote Gillars’ biography, about her broadcasts, her trial, and her quiet life in Ohio after her imprisonment.