Helen Thomas’s resignation from the White House press corps came not because of offensive comments, but because the media landscape has passed her by.
Reporters are, rightfully, under more scrutiny now than ever. Back when Thomas started, America’s romanticized view of “the media” was something like a mix of Lois Lane, Carl Bernstein, and Bob Woodward – dogged reporters turning over stones, acting as the clear pane of glass through which normal, everyday people could see the world.
But gradually, reporters (including Woodward and Bernstein) became a part of the equation. Suddenly, people realized that the reporters weren’t just a clear pane of glass, but the entire window, limited in what they showed by their own frame. Sometimes, to see what was really going on outside, you had to look out of several different windows.
News consumers began to understand that the person telling the story affects the story. And news consumers care about that.
This isn’t to say that reporters should be completely without bias – but most folks feel they ought to try to keep an open mind. Thomas’s anti-Israel diatribe was anything but open minded.
That the grand dame of the White House press room was taken down by a citizen journalist – and that it was her own words, rather than any auxiliary commentary, that did her in – speaks to another truth about modern media. The stalwarts like Thomas are less relevant than ever before.