Statement on Helen Thomas from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists
Friday, June 11, 2010
For decades, Helen Thomas has been a paragon for younger journalists and her closing her career as a bad role model provides lessons as well, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists finds.
Thomas, who turns 90 in August, has been since the 1940s a fixture in Washington as a wire service reporter, becoming a columnist only 10 years ago. Thomas has been a justly honored correspondent, also noted for breaking gender barriers in the profession. In May, informally but into a loaded camcorder, Thomas harshly criticized Israel’s Palestinian policies and said its Jewish citizens should leave the country. Thomas apologized, but her speakers bureau dropped her and she resigned from Hearst News Service.
Thomas never has been an NSNC member and is not subject to its rules. The society’s Code of Conduct is worth considering, regardless. The code advises journalistic ethics of accuracy and fairness while advocating the license needed for columns of opinion and humor.
Thomas was not writing but being interviewed, making most of the NSNC code inapplicable. This was not even a case of using one’s position for personal gain.
Its last sentence is noteworthy. “I will always remember that my job is a privilege and honor because being a columnist represents the basic American rights of free speech and open discussion.”
The National Society of Newspaper Columnists believes a commentator can communicate any damn fool thing, but that doesn’t guarantee security from her employer or respect from her peers — or her audience.
The NSNC regrets seeing a career end this way and hopes in the coming months this incident will lead to a greater good.
– Ben S. Pollock, NSNC vice president
*This statement may not reflect the individual opinion of every member.