The legendary journalist and bestselling author, Helen Thomas, delivers a hard-hitting manifesto on the precipitous decline in the quality and ethics of political reportage—and issues a clarion call for change. In the course of more than sixty years spent covering Washington politics, Helen Thomas has witnessed firsthand a raft of fundamental changes in the way news is gathered and reported. Gone are the days of flying in Air Force One with JFK, as she once did. Now, Thomas sees a growing—and alarming—reluctance among reporters to question the government and probe for the truth. The result has been a wholesale failure by journalists to fulfill what is arguably their most vital role in contemporary American life—to be the watchdogs of democracy. Today’s journalists, to hear Thomas tell it, have become subdued, compromised lapdogs. Watchdogs of Democracy? provides readers with rich historical perspective on the roots of American journalism, the circumstances attending the rise and fall of its golden age, and the nature and consequences of its current lapses. Drawing on her peerless knowledge of Washington politics, as well as frank interviews with leading journalists past and present, Thomas delivers a powerful discourse on the state of political reportage—as well as a welcome and inspiring demand for meaningful and lasting reform.
Helen Thomas has earned numerous awards including: Sigma Delta Chi "fellow" & Hall of Fame Michigan Women's Hall of Fame Ohio University Journalism Award University of Texas Journalism Award Columbia University Journalism Award William Allen White Journalism Award Loi Pinel Award 2020 National Press Club Fourth Estate Award Bob Considine Award, Hearst Newspapers Aldo Beckman Award Wayne State University Journalism Award International Women’s Media Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award Society of Professional Journalists First Lifetime Award Glamour Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award
Helen Thomas was born in Winchester, Kentucky on August 4, 1920. She was reared in Detroit, Michigan where she attended public schools, and later graduated from Wayne State University. The year after college Thomas served as a copy girl on the now defunct Washington Daily News, and joined United Press International in 1943. For 12 years Thomas had to be at work at 5:30 a.m. to write radio news for U.P.I. She later had several beats around the federal government, including the Department of Justice, F.B.I., Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and Capitol Hill before she began covering President-elect John F. Kennedy in 1960. Thomas went to the White House in January 1961 as a member of the U.P.I. team headed by the late Merriman Smith, and was there until May 2000. In July 2000 Thomas became a columnist for the Hearst News Service – where she continues today. During the years she covered Kennedy, Thomas was the first woman to close a presidential news conference with the traditional "Thank you, Mr. President." Thomas served as President of the Women's National Press Club in 1959 - 60, and she was the first woman officer of the National Press Club after it opened its doors to women members for the first time in 90 years. In addition, Thomas became the first woman officer of the White House Correspondents Association in its 50 years of existence, and served as its first woman president in 1975-76. Thomas also became the first woman member of the Gridiron Club in its history, and the first woman to be elected President in 1993.
In 1968 Thomas was named the "Newspaper Woman of Washington" by the American Newspaper Woman's Club, and in 1975, she was named the "Woman of the Year" in communications by Ladies Home Journal. She has also received the Matrix Award from the Women in Communications, and the World Almanac named Helen Thomas as one of the twenty-five most influential women in America. Thomas has received numerous honorary doctorate degrees, some of the most recent from Brown University, St. Bonaventure University, Michigan State University and the George Washington University. In addition, she has been a commencement speaker at dozens of colleges and has delivered lectures on the White House and the Presidency throughout the country. Helen Thomas traveled around the world several times with Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, and covered every economic summit. In February, 1972, she was the only newspaperwoman to travel with President Nixon to China during his breakthrough trip. Since then, she has been to China on many subsequent presidential visits. Thomas continues to ask her pointed questions of President George W. Bush and his press secretary on a daily basis. In September, 1971, Pat Nixon scooped Helen Thomas by announcing her engagement to the Associated Press' retiring White House correspondent, Douglas Cornell, at a White House party hosted by the President in honor of Cornell. The late Cornell and Thomas were married on October 16, 1971. Thomas is the author of the book, Dateline: White House, and her memoir, Front Row at the White House. She is also the author of Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President, and her latest book, Watchdogs of Democracy? about how journalism has changed was released in June 2006.