Saturday, July 20, 2013


Great Americans are as rare as a desert rose this century and one of the greatest died today at the age of 92.

As a 12-year veteran of Hearst Magazines, I couldn't help be heartbroken by what would be Helen Thomas's last act of journalistic courage: her condemnation of Israel for the Marva Marmara massacre, leading to a Zionist attack on Hearst; leading to her forced public apology; leading to her forced resignation from Hearst (and from all newspapers). Daughter Vickie Hearst especially went off in her condemnation of Thomas and in her defense of the po' little besieged state of Israel, the week of the Marva Marmara massacre:

    "I urge Hearst Corporation CEO Frank Bennack to make a public apology to the Worldwide Jewish Community, assuring the Jewish people that the Hearst Corporation is not anti-Israel."

No, but it sure became anti-human. Hearst Magazines, under the cheeseball command of Cathie Black -- fully supported by the Family -- was on a 10-year slash-and-burn campaign against its own product by the time of the Thomas blackballing. Once upon a time, each Hearst title had its own cache -- different history, size, smell, paperweight, readership, cover style. Each magazine had its own turf and the EiCs would fight bloody battles to not let the scourge of advertorial ruin the day. Black & Bennack ended all diversity, and all concern with editorial corruption. As they ended Helen -- the diamond in the dungheap known as the White Press Corps.

One great American on another. Ralph Nader:
There will never be another Helen Thomas. 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 the toughest 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 ethnicity — Arab-American — and her 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 an unaccountable coward. That is the example she set as a journalist and the recurrent theme in her three books.

Her free spirit, her courageous belief that injustice must be exposed by journalists, her congenial personality and her relentless focus (she asked former President George W. Bush and his press secretary Ari Fleischer dozens of times “Why are we in Iraq?”) will be long remembered.

Her tenacious, forthright approach to journalism stands as a stark contrast to the patsy journalism of too many of her former self-censoring White House press colleagues.

The remarkable combination of skills and perseverance will distinguish Helen Thomas as one of the giants of American journalistic history.