Helen Thomas: One of a Kind

Monday, 22 Jul 2013 02:31 PM

By Jon Friedman

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In today's cookie-cutter world of over-saturated and overhyped "news," just about the most flattering and honorable thing that you can say is that someone was truly One of a Kind.
Such as the late Helen Thomas, who died at the age of 92 last Saturday. We can now apply the adjective "legendary" to her since icons become legends once they pass away.
Thomas was unique for many reasons: her courage, her feistiness, her legacy. There was no one like her before she arrived and nobody quite like her since.
Thomas, most crucially, served as a trailblazer for women to follow her in broadcast journalism. She didn't use her gender as a crutch because she viewed herself professionally as a reporter — not necessarily a female journalist. Thomas' goal was the same as her male counterparts: get the story by asking tough, un-welcomed, unscripted questions.
I never met her or covered a White House press briefing in her presence. It might be fair to say that she didn't always make a lot of friends at the White House, on either side of the fence there. Reporters probably thought she was grandstanding. Presidential aides dreaded her intrusive line of inquiry.
Will anyone fill that role in today's media corps? Will anyone — female or male — have the chutzpah to want to stir up trouble?
Sadly, Thomas' career ended ignominiously after she made some ill-chosen words about Israel. It was unfortunate that decades of stellar journalistic work got swept away, at least momentarily, under a cloud of controversy. But it happens all the time. Ironically, if nothing else, she felt the heat of the media glare, just as many people she and others reported on have done. It's always strange when a reporter — a student of others' lives — suddenly becomes the big story.
Journalists can only hope that they will someday achieve a breakthrough as striking as that of Helen Thomas. She covered history in the making and put her stamp on it as well.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.

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