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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Requiem for a heavyweight

I come to praise Helen Thomas. She buried herself.

But I also believe that a long and illustrious career as a trailblazing journalist -- keeping presidential feet to the fire for 50 years -- should not be measured simply by one ill-conceived, ill-tempered and frankly bigoted remark.

As a fellow alum of United Press International I cannot ignore the fact she was the symbol of a proud organization that always fought hard, even when it was outnumbered and outspent by the Associated Press.

UPI continues to exist to this day. But when Thomas ended her tenure -- after the news agency was sold to Rev. Moon's News World Communications --the agency's credibility left with her. That was the power and credibility of a junior reporter -- a woman at that -- who walked into the White House when John Kennedy was president and remained there through countless crises, always asking the tough questions.

It's important recognize that in a world that always accuses reporters of bias, wire service reporters are a special breed. They know how to keep their opinions out of stories -- because they usually have 300 words of less to tell them.

But that stricture fell away when she joined the Hearst News Service as a columnist. And like all columnists, Thomas, a Lebanese-American, was never one to hide her opinions.

This is also not a defense of Israel and what one New York Times op-ed columnist labeled its "blockhead" behavior in boarding a Turkish ship attempting to run its Gaza blockade. The difference is he did not posit an absurdity by suggesting Jews should return to countries where they were the victims of a Holocaust.

The ultimate pain of the endless Mideast stalemate is neither side has learned from history and are condemned to repeating it. Thomas is but the latest to fall into this trap.

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