A Small Thanks To Helen Thomas
Journalism just lost one of its most dynamic and dedicated stars.
Veteran reporter Helen Thomas died on Saturday at the age of 92. A pioneer for women in journalism, she was the first woman to cover the president and not just the First Lady; the first female president of the White House Correspondents Association; and, above all, a no-nonsense reporter who fired tough questions at every president who has served since John F. Kennedy. In short, she was a force.
But I’ll remember her for a different reason.
A long time ago, Helen Thomas sat down with a group of high school kids visiting Washington, D.C. – myself included — who wanted to be reporters. She talked to us about the profession and her experience. I was star-struck, inspired, and excited to pursue a career in journalism.
Upon her death, the president of the White House Correspondents Association said that “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.” But I’d go a step further and say we can learn a lot from Ms. Thomas when it comes to paving the way for young people starting their professional lives.
That small amount of time Ms. Thomas gave us — gave me — made a big difference in my life, and for that, I’m grateful. I’m also reminded how important mentoring is.
I certainly didn’t make it through my journalism career without a lot of gracious help and guidance from people who had been in the profession longer than me. I was fortunate to start my career in Washington D.C. surrounded by some of the best news professionals in the business, and I still employ their lessons in my work today.
Even small efforts, like having coffee with an entry-level employee to talk about career paths, or writing a glowing recommendation for a deserving intern, or speaking to a classroom of young children about what you do, can make a huge difference in a life. Don’t miss your opportunity to positively influence the future of your profession, just like Helen did for journalism.
Christina Mozaffari was an Emmy Award-winning journalist for NBC News. Today, she serves as the vice president for Phillips Media Relations.
I met Helen Thomas in 1994 when she and the White House Press Pool covered President and Mrs. Clinton’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day off Normandy. It struck me that while the other pool members were running around at an almost insane pace, Ms. Thomas was easy going, yet confident and placed no value on self-importance. It was a real joy to work with a professional of he caliber.
Thank you for sharing, John!
I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Thomas several years ago at an event. She was older, more frail at that point, but her force of nature was no less apparent. She took several minutes to chat with me, encourage me and remind me never to stop fighting for what is right.
Ms. Thomas paved the way for women, not just in journalism, but in every field typically reserved for men. We must never forget women like her and the struggles they endured for their children and our own.