National Review’s Jonah Goldberg took a look at all the media tributes to Helen Thomas, the 92 year-old disgraced “dean” of the White House Press Corps, who died over the weekend. Then he took a look at the actual journalistic accomplishments of Thomas. Other than exploiting an ill woman and trashing Israel, Goldberg came up pretty empty:
NPR’s media correspondent, David Folkenflik, observed in his obituary that Thomas “put a premium on shoe-leather reporting out of view.” He fails to mention any stories Thomas actually broke.
The New York Times managed to identify a scoop: her reports of her phone conversations with Martha Mitchell, the emotionally disturbed wife of Watergate-era attorney general John Mitchell. Mrs. Mitchell had a habit — owing in part to her reported alcoholism — of getting drunk and telephoning whoever would listen to her rants. Most reporters stopped exploiting Mitchell once it became clear how ill the woman was. Not Thomas. She happily transcribed the calls, even reporting how Mitchell’s young daughter was begging her mother to get off the phone with Thomas. “Don’t talk to her, she’s no friend.”
Still, as time went by, the awards poured in as Thomas became a Washington institution, with cameos in Hollywood movies and even The Simpsons. But the “odd thing about her awards and citations,” Chait noted, “is that they almost never mention any specific contributions she has made to journalism save for being female and, well, old.”
Or as journalist Andrew Ferguson once put it, “Everybody admires Helen, though nobody can tell you why.”
The best answer I can come up with: She had a long tradition of existence.
Read it all.
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