Transcribing the Helen Thomas Tapes

I’m sitting at a Cafe, transcribing more of the Helen Thomas tapes. When I met Helen in 2007, I asked her if it would be OK to film some of our conversations about life, journalism, politics and the intersection of each. Now it’s 2010, and it’s time for me to sit down and transcribe them all, show her what I’ve got, and see what step is next. Why? I suppose I feel the conversations and lessons that came out of our talks shouldn’t be kept just between us. So many people are passionate about reconstructing fact-first journalism.

She told me during one of our first meetings this was the most difficult time she has ever seen for a young person to enter journalism. Really? I was skeptical. Even during WWII, when she got her start? Even when women weren’t anything but coffee brewers and secretaries in newsrooms? Now? Yes, she told me. In a moment of self defeat, I told her about the advice of some Washington media who told me: if I wanted to get in, I should leave, work at a small news outlet in some small town, and try to make my way back. I loathed such advice. Why would I do that? Even in 2007, I felt a rising tide of change that I wanted to be around for. Helen agreed. “Start at the top. Stay in Washington,” she told me on a park bench outside the White House. And I did. Stay in Washington, that is. And in the years that followed, I would find my own way for education and experience, talking to Helen Thomas about it along the way.

Over the years our poignant conversations produced moments of intensity and real time lessons for me. It has been a remarkable privilege to have these talks with Helen. But truth be told, this isn’t about us. It’s about a significant shift in American journalism – and how two bookends of the industry viewed it. Analyzed it. Consoled each other over it. Found hope from each other in it. Learned from the others experiences with it. And at the end of the day, ended on a note that left each of us feeling optimistic about it.

Here is one quote from this batch, filmed in her cubicle on February 19, 2009:

EA: Two columns ago, you wrote about the stimulus, and about how Obama was courting (Republican) votes. And it didn’t work. Only three Republican Senators voted for the package. What is it really going to take to change the way Washington works, which is what he says he wants to do.

HT: I don’t think he’s going to change the way Washington works. That is, he ought to do what is right for the American people. And if he does, he’ll win.

Posted via web from EricaAmerica’s posterous

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