Political and campaign reporting

POYNTER

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." Read More
POYNTER

White House press conferences are a century old, but still relevant & useful

Politico | The Hollywood Reporter As White House press conferences turn 100 this month, Towson University political science professor Martha Joynt Kumar reassures us that they haven't lost their usefulness. She explains that Woodrow Wilson established press conferences and invited all reporters, not just a press corps, to attend these off-the-record sessions. That form has long fallen by the wayside, with the advent of joint press conferences with other world leaders, Q&A sessions and personal interviews with chief executives. With interviews and short question-and-answer sessions, will the solo press conference that Wilson established become a relic? Not likely. While presidents may not use them as frequently, press conferences are a place where presidents provide answers to hard questions and establish that they know what they are talking about. Although there have been complaints that Obama has restricted press access, Kumar offers a table pointing out that Obama seems much more comfortable in one-on-one discussions that allow him "to delve into issues that are important to him and demonstrate his command of policy." He has had 79 news conferences since being elected (George W. Bush had 89 total in eight years; his father held 143 in one term), compared to 674 interviews -- 116 shy of the number that both Bushes and Bill Clinton had combined. Read More
POYNTER

San Diego reporter's work called 'opposition research'

U-T San Diego A San Diego group that hired an investigative journalist to collect negative information about a mayoral candidate filed a "financial disclosure to settle a joint investigation by the San Diego Ethics Commission and the state Fair Political Practices Commission," Craig Gustafson reports in U-T San Diego. Spotlight San Diego paid former San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Caitlin Rother "nearly $23,000" to produce a dossier on Carl DeMaio that it distributed anonymously to media outlets, Gustafson writes. The investment paid off only modestly, however: The information dredged up went largely unreported because many in the media considered it old, irrelevant and an untoward attempt to draw attention to DeMaio’s homosexuality during the race. The records focused mainly on legal problems involving his partner — San Diego Gay & Lesbian News Publisher Johnathan Hale. Read More