Category Archives: Helen Thomas

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

My Afternoon with the Newspaper

Saturday I took a step back – from my laptop – to catch up with the newspaper. I chose the New York Times and forked over $2.12, a small price to pay for what turned out to be three hours of reading, writing and ideating. Each time I wanted to pull out my iPhone, I dug deeper into Sections A and B, determined to have an uninterrupted afternoon with what Devin Coldewey, a CrunchGear blogger, called “delayed media,” aka the ink newspaper.

Delayed media is 1/3 of the concept that is part of the “present media triumvirate” theory coined by Coldewey. Helen Thomas once told me that the benefit of the print newspaper is that you end up reading much more than you would have if you were searching for something online. I found that to hold true during my experiment. I read about how labor shortages in China will make their exports more expensive and I learned that Citigroup is about to launch a PR campaign aimed at revamping their image with Wall Street and Washington. Neither of which I got from my Twitter feeds and the cable news loop that I typically keep on during the days.

While I love the newspaper (I starting delivering them in fifth grade), they haven’t kept up with the pace of the web and so they haven’t kept up with me. Even though I have worked to keep them in my life, I know that the average newsreader hasn’t. And I don’t blame them. But I am trying to figure out a way to apply the best of traditional media (epitomized by the delayed media) and combine it with the best tactics and tools of the new. Continue reading

Helen Thomas and Craig Crawford at the Smithsonian

Yesterday I went to the American History Museum – which just re-opened after nearly three years of construction, to say hello to Helen Thomas and  Craig Crawford. The two co-authors of “Listen Up, Mr. President” have been on a joint book touring for the past few months. (See my Flickr photos of the event and Craig Crawford’s Twitter feed here).

I talked to Helen for a few minutes and it was clear her mind was on the White House news that morning. Just hours before, two former Presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, made a joint appearance to help the devastated people of Haiti and announced the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund. Here is the PSA on WhiteHouse.gov.

Continue reading

SFGate.com: Let's Collaborate

Every week the online news team at the San Francisco Chronicle publishes Helen Thomas’s weekly column. The Chronicle, or SFGate.com, is part of Hearst News Corporation, who Helen works for.

Today I decided to email one of the Politics Blog writers, Mr. Michael Collier. The reason? If SFGate.com’s audience is receptive to Helen’s columns, why not publish my video interviews alongside? We’ll see if Mr. Collier gets back.

Web 2.0 Managed News?

Two things. First, I am reading a book.  For those political media junkies, it’s “The Boys on the Bus,” by Rolling Stone journalist, Timothy Crouse. Crouse, at the time, who was barely old enough to drink, got the assignment of a lifetime to cover the 1972 Nixon | McGovern campaign.

As I look at the shape of our news media – the ecosystem if you will – I always consider lessons of the past to find a new way forward. And what Crouse writes in Boys, gives us a glance into the relationship between journalists, the news agenda, and the White House.

Second, Helen Thomas makes several cameos in the book as the UPI correspondent along for the ride. My favorite line so far is when she lost her restraint and said to Ron Ziegler, Nixon’s Press Secretary: “Lies. We get nothing but lies. And someday those lies are going to catch up with this Administration.”

Ziegler responds back with a jab. She gives him a “hard look.”

“I’ll say one thing for you, Ron. You’re never lied to us directly. But I don’t know how you stomach your job.”

So why do I bring this up? Well, like I said, the keys to the future are in treasures of the past. And two of those treasures – Boys on the Bus, and Helen Thomas, are telling us where to go from here.

Deviating from the Script to Understand Motives

On January 9, Salon.com writer, Glenn Greenwald, wrote a post about last week’s White House Briefing, where Robert Gibbs, Janet Napolitano and John Brennan addressed the White House Press Corps, about the Flight 253 bombing attempt. In his post, Greenwald focused on the question from Helen Thomas, who once again, parted from the restraint her colleagues share… and said point blank to John Brennan, “What is the motivation of the terrorists – where does it come from?”

In other words, how do American policies fuel terrorism?

Right away I went back to my video archives and pulled out an interview I did with Helen Thomas in July 2009. I had wanted to do something with it earlier – but the timing wasn’t right – and as you will see, the quality – of the video, unfortunately blew. (My fault for needing to use my back up Flip Cam). But regardless, I think this is an important interview – one that will help folks like Glenn Greenwald consider what it means when a Press Corps is intimidated, what questions don’t get asked, what questions get shut down- and what we can all do to get the process back up to the standard.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvqK387jG0c[/youtube]

Goodbye, K Street. Hello, Journalism.

This is my second to last day at Spectrum. I am leaving with a six-month nest egg, two job leads and one burning desire to stitch journalism up – from the inside.

A few of my trusted confidants, including my Dad and Helen Thomas, advised me throughout 2009 to stick with my day job and ride the recession out. Well, I took that advice, and as a result spent twelve months packing away knowledge and pennies, creating digital case studies for my portfolio and simultaneously starting the process of graduating my brand from “EricaAmerica Citizen Journalist” to “Erica Anderson, Network Producer/Reporter.

I have a driving instinct that now it’s time to put 100 percent into this ambition to help rebuild what I believe to be the most important industries to the health of our imperfect nation – journalism.

So stay tuned for what’s next; who I target and who I meet with, how I used social media to land opportunities and what the outcome will be.

One thing is for sure, now, more than ever, it is time to step into the fray and make the future happen.

Helen Thomas to the President: Go Down In Flames for the Public Option

Just Released – Unedited, unfiltered interview with Helen Thomas about the health care debate. With more than 60 years of White House experience, Thomas dissects the interests against a “public option” in the health care debate: “Profiteering,” “Misinformation” and an “atmosphere of hate.”

This interview was recorded on Wednesday, August 19, 2009.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRaKNyn3v0M[/youtube]

The Truth. I need it.

It pains me, but  I have taken a serious hiatus from blogging. Why? It’s hard to say. My day job has drained me. The fate of journalism scares me. And it feels impossible, without giving up absolutely everything, including a personal life, to seek original content in my spare time, not just spin what’s already been spun. I think you all, the people who visit my blog, deserve some original stories. Not more spin.

Since MTV ended, I have had a ton of offers to write/produce for free. I get it. I’m young in my career. I should be willing to work for free or little cost. But seriously? It degrades what I’m trying to do: prove that real journalism, real information, can’t be found solely at the keypad on my computer.Sure, I can build sources, I can research, read other perspectives. But I can’t go out there, attend a hearing, get reactions at a rally…get a soundbite that actually informs the direction of a national dialogue or changes the perspective of a student, a voter, a President.

While working full time for free, hustling for stories and uploading all the time to iReport, HuffingtonPost and TrueSlant  sounds great, I am a pragmatist. And I’m not about to jump ship, leave my day job, without knowing who is steering us to a better place. To a journalism that doesn’t deny the possibility the Internet brings. To a journalism that admits many jobs will be lost but many more created.  To a journalism that wants to embrace web 2.0 to inform the public to make better decisions. Why, with all that is at stake, are we not there yet?

One of the first times I interviewed Helen Thomas, I told her I considered her the first “blogger” in the White House. I don’t think she was expecting the words that had come out of my mouth. As background, this was back in 2007, when BPhoto Credit: Jason Novakush was still in control, and the word “blog” was a sure shot to get my mouth washed out with soap in the wrong company. But Helen listened, and then she asked, “what do you mean?”

I went on.

“In a way, you are. You aren’t trying to kid anyone. You are going for the facts, but you are also going for reactions – and you are putting yourself in the question. Your peers are totally shocked. They don’t know what to do with it,” and thought to myself, “except ignore you.”

A while later, I was at a happy hour with a bunch of people who worked at ABC, NBC, CNN, etc. A senior White House producer from one of these major networks asked me about Helen. I answered by asking her why people in the Press Corp didn’t follow up on Helen’s questions, the ones that were so OBVIOUS, like, Mr. President, are you certain Iraq has WMD? Why do intelligence reports contradict? Do we torture? You know, the basics.

The Producer’s answer? “She makes us all uncomfortable.”

Uncomfortable? What a waste of a press pass. Someone who seeks the truth makes the Press Corp “uncomfortable.”

Why does this matter?

As important as the niche, bulldog blogs have become inside the Beltway, mainstream press is still mainstream press. People from Indiana to Idaho are still busy, focused on raising families or farms, paying bills or the doctor. They don’t have time to do their homework. So they turn to comfortable brands, like network and cable news. The same places that proved in the run up the Iraq war, that they were comfortable reporting what they were told, and uncomfortable looking for more.Note from Helen Thomas, to Erica Anderson

But we all know what asking tough questions in recent years has brought Helen. Animosity from her peers. A cold shoulder from a President. A status as a “has been.” Between you and me, she does care that people attack her work. But she also tells me this, “You don’t go into this business to be popular.”

Perhaps that is what we are all afraid of. Not being liked. Or even better, not being rich. Honestly? I’m past it. This democracy is in need of truth. It is in need of a financially vibrant system of press. One that can be trusted, competitive, and open for debate. And above all else, run by people who get the fact that the Internet and technology will make journalism better off. More informed. More conscious. More like Helen.

Helen Thomas Learns Twitter

Helen Thomas meets Twitter. Well, I’ve introduced them once before. But this time on camera – and this time, armed with questions from you. She was a good sport and full of laughs, but then quickly turned the tables and asked me to ask you: who wants single payer health care?

Check out her latest column, Obama Running Scared, to learn what she means.