Helen Thomas On Bloggers, The Press, And Obama's Failings

Illustration for article titled Helen Thomas On Bloggers, The Press, And Obama's Failings

It's no secret that we think White House legend Helen Thomas is awesome; unfortunately, she doesn't return the sentiment.


In an interview with Time, Thomas bashes bloggers, but as always, there is some truth in her harsh words:

Everyone with a laptop thinks they're a journalist. Everyone with a cellphone thinks they're a photographer. So our profession is sidelined in a way. There's no turning back. It's frightening because you can ruin lives and reputations willy-nilly without realizing it. No editors. No standards. No ethics. We're at the crossroads.

"Press at a crossroads" is sort of the theme of the whole interview. Although she is there to talk about her latest book, Listen Up, Mr. President, the most interesting parts come when she discusses the relationship between the President and the press. When asked about the differences between Obama and Bush, she says, "No President likes the press. They all hate us." The Obama Administration, she claims, is amazingly adept at the art of the spin. The so-called "managed news" is naturally not something Thomas will support.

There's very little you can do when they control the information. But I think every once in awhile the press knows enough to protest. It's not their information, it's ours. It belongs to the American people... I think it behooves all administrations to tell the truth as much as they can, to bring the people with them. You cannot have a democracy without informed people. It shouldn't be a shock when the public finally learns things.

Sing it, sister.

But her criticism of the current presidency does not stop there. At a recent interview at the Commonwealth Club, Thomas told reporter Phil Bronstein that Obama "lacks courage." "There was a gasp in the crowd," Bronstein writes. "I was the interviewer and it rocked me a little." For Bronstein, this one comment seems to reflect the growing tide of criticism that has been leveled against Obama from the left in the most concise way possible. This is classic Thomas, telling it like it is. Bronstein ends with a little advice for Obama:

So while he's dodging Glenn Beck broadsides and rope-a-doping formerly infatuated Democratic critics, Barack Obama needs to keep a much closer eye on the 89-year-old woman front row at his press conferences than he does on the genuflecting artist who built a giant Nobel Peace Prize sand sculpture of the President in India.


Probably good advice, but not as good as what Thomas herself had to say to any future president: "Do the right thing. There's no other place to go."

And finally, Thomas shares what it is like to write based on opinion rather than straight news (which sounds surprisingly similar to writing a blog): "Now I wake up every morning and ask, 'Who do I hate today?' That's how you write a column!"


Q&A: White House Legend Helen Thomas [Time]
Bronstein At Large: In Conversation With Helen Thomas At The Commonwealth Club [SFGate]
Helen Thomas: White House Watchdog Tells All [CommonwealthClub.org]



Blog aren't subject to the same ethical standards as traditional news sources. Even thoughtful well-edited blogs like Jezebel. But, I think this is a benefit.

Here, we have news stories or studies presented to us a certain way. A lot is opinion. And then we react or criticize or whatever in the comments. We get to speculate on breaking news and share additional information.

I think of blogs and traditional news sources as supplementing each other, not replacing. #helenthomas