Tag Archives: Helen Thomas

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.


The End…of an Erica?

Sarah Burris, a very active youth blogger based in Kansas, took my post ‘The Truth, I Need It,” to a new level last night. I received a Tweet that read, “Sarah Burris has responded to your post with…“The End of an Erica.” At first, my stomach dropped. The title seemed dire. Then, upon reading it, I realized this.  I, we, are not alone.

And with that, the support for “The Truth” started to pour in. From @EvanSummers, a young political activist wrote:  “That seriously is one of the most direct and scathing insight on the state of the industry that I’ve read in a long time. Well done.”

From a web producer and social media guru working inside mainstream media, I got a simple, “F*ck Yeah.”

From a DePaul University (and a Suma Cum Laude in the Journalism school), Molly Horan, I saw that she linked to me and urged her Facebook followers:  “YOU NEED TO READ IT.”

But perhaps the best conversation came late last night, from a talented freelancer in Washington, who G chatted me to say she valued the piece. We agreed the conversation was one we “need to have” but that, with the recent loss of Walter Cronkite, we are both reminded that for them, there was at least a path. For us, we are searching for a way forward without much support from those before us.

It reminded me of this. Something Helen told me right before I went to the RNC last August. “This is the most difficult time I have ever seen for a young person to enter the business.”

All I could do was let silence fill the room, and then I asked, “How can that be? Even compared to what you went through?”

“Yes. Even more.”

It is true. We have our challenges ahead of us, but as I told my friend over G Chat, the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity and reward. So let’s do this and fix this problem together.

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.

Your Fix with Helen Thomas #4: Drones and American Warfare

As CBS’s 60 Minutes called it on Sunday, May 11th, drones are America’s new “air force.”

Funny they said that. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Helen Thomas where she talked about the military’s use of drones. I was probing her on the defense budget – asking her how I can learn to study it well enough to know when something doesn’t add up. She told me she wasn’t an expert on budgets, but that she does know a little something about the sophistication of the weapons we are using.

After I came home to upload and watch the video, I got a little nervous. Was this kind of stuff classified? I had never heard any of it before. So I called her to make sure.

“No,” she told me, “this is all open information.”

Once again, the student had been schooled. How I love when that happens.

This video contains several references to Web sites and resources that I used to do research. All of the links can be found below. This video is available on YouTube, Yahoo! Video, Meta Cafe and Daily Motion. So get into it and pass it on.

Drones: America’s New Air Force, CBS News 60 Minutes, and CNET, May 10, 2009

Air Force to Build Up Its Drone Supply, Washington Post, March 19, 2005

Lobbying Spending Database, OpenSecrets.org

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Your Fix with Helen Thomas #3: Israel, Expectations, Twitter

Here is the next installment. I hope you enjoy. For links to the articles relevant to the video, check out the list below.

Israel Stance Was Undoing of Nominee for Intelligence Post, New York Times

Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper
March 11, 2009


What are U.S. goals in Afghanistan?
Helen Thomas
March 12, 2009

Bush, top aides apparently home free
Helen Thomas
March 7, 2009

Thomas: Why shouldn’t Obama aim high?
Helen Thomas
February 26, 2009

Helen Thomas Will Now Take Your Questions

Tonight I went over to Hearst, where Helen writes her weekly column, to talk. I told her ahead of time I had some questions and she sounded excited. “Sounds good,” she said. “I’ll see you at 5:30.”

What came of the conversation is the pilot episode for Your Fix with Helen Thomas. Enjoy and let me know what you think. I’ll be back next week for round two.

It’s past 5:00 in Helen’s newsroom. She had a busy few weeks. She greeted the new President with a controversial question, got blasted by Bill O’Reillyand then got flowers… It hasn’t been an average week for Helen, but then again, it never is. Now, in a completely new role, Helen Thomas will take your questions.


Helen’s last two columns:

Obama Follows Some of Bush’s Footsteps February 18, 2009

Obama Learns Limits of Bipartisan Overtures February 12, 2009

Mission Possible for Iraq Veterans

To friends and family when my video launched.

“This doesn’t just close out a month when I (determinedly) worked through each weekend, it signifies a milestone in my Street Team tenure. I am half way through this journey. My production skills have greatly improved, but more than that, I think I found what a friend and mentor advised I do back in January.

“Erica, Humanize this War.”

With that advice, I thought – and continue to think, about the way to do it. For this video, and over time, I talked to dozens of Veterans. Read every article I could. And through conversation, absorbed anecdotes — about a confusing and unorganized war – from intelligence officers, artillery soldiers, explosive specialists and more.

Here is my video, Mission Possible.”