Remembering longtime journalist Helen Thomas

Longtime White House journalist Helen Thomas died Saturday at age 92. Thomas worked for United Press International for 57 years and covered every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama. She was a columnist for Hearst Newspapers between 2000 and 2010.

Helen Thomas in her front-row seat.

Thomas was a pioneer for female reporters. She was the first woman to break away from the “White House women’s beat”; instead of writing about presidents’ kids and wives, Thomas wrote hard news stories alongside men. Additionally, she was the White House Correspondents’ Association’s first female president.

The Associated Press reports:

She also pushed open the doors for women at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. At her urging, Kennedy refused to attend the 1962 dinner unless it was open to women for the first time. The tactic worked. More than a decade later, Thomas was the first woman to serve as the association’s president.

“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,” Steven Thomma, the association’s current president said in a statement Saturday. “All of our journalism is the better for it.”

Thomas had a front-row seat in the White House press room for years. In 2000, she wrote a book about her career, titled “Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times.”

Thomas retired from the White House beat in June 2010 after making remarks that many believe were anti-Semitic. She wrote a weekly political affairs column for the Falls Church News-Press after her retirement, from January 2011 to January 2012.

WTOP has a slideshow of images depicting highlights from Thomas’ career. USA Today’s Natalie DiBlasio compiled a Storify of journalists’ reactions to her death:

 

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  • Lou Alexander

    Love the juxtaposition of the this story and the top headline from Friday….

    New York Times editor: Diversity quotas would ‘result in tokenism that sets us all back’

    Helen Thomas got women invited to the WHCA dinner in 1962–when I was still in high school–and all these decades later the role/place of women is still an issue.