She was the girl who made a term like The Boys on the Bus obsolete for the flock of reporters condemned to trail a president or wanna-be president around like a posse on the hunt for the slightest slip.
Miss Thomas' eccentricities may have grown into grotesqueries as the decades and she advanced/deteriorated. But her work ethic, or rather work obsession, never changed. And she always remained very much herself as she passed from bright young thing to crashing bore, bright hope to old crone. There were consolations for having to settle for notoriety instead of fame. For example, she did so enjoy being the dowager queen of the White House press corps. (There's no accounting for tastes.)
Helen Thomas that she stayed true to her self-portrait, warts and all. It was a virtue -- and vice -- that would do her career in at the end, but even at her nadir she was more to be pitied than despised.
It is the Helen Thomas before she became a caricature, a period that encompasses the much greater part of her life, that should be emphasized on her death at 92. Reading her obituary, many an old-timer may be struck by how much a part of their lives she was -- not just a flickering figure on the TV screen as it went from black-and-white to glaring color over the years. And from a decently confined 15 minutes of the evening news to a 24/7 blare of infotainment. How could she have known that the kind of vexatious reporting-cum-badgering that she specialized in would one day focus on her? Blame it on the speeded-up times, which have grown even faster and less contemplative.
Let the lady be remembered at her best in what is now a rapidly dimming past. The moral of her story: None of us can do more than the best we're capable of, or should settle for less.
(Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
She was part of our lives
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