Veteran reporter joins SMPA staff

Former White House news correspondent Helen Thomas will join the School of Media and Public Affairs September as a Shapiro Fellow.

I’m looking forward to meeting students, she said.

Designed to bring professionals to the school, the Shapiro Fellowship is funded by the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Charitable Trust.

My goal is to fire students up with journalism, Thomas said. I’m a strong believer in the profession.

Thomas’ responsibilities will include giving lectures and holding monthly informal gatherings with students as well as individual meetings with them.

I think it’s a great opportunity, said Brooke Gosin, a junior who is applying to become a journalism major.

Gosin said she plans to either attend a lecture or speak to Thomas in person.

I think she’s very interesting and it’s good to (get advice) from somebody with experience, Gosin said.

While Thomas will have an office, she will not be teaching any classes.

I’m glad that I don’t have to grade papers, she said.

Her first responsibility will be to give a short speech at Convocation on September 12, she said. Thomas said she does not have any other definite plans.

I’m hoping she will give one big lecture (for the University), GW President Steven Joel Trachtenberg said.

Thomas, who retired her position as dean of the White House press corps in May will remain active in journalism, writing two columns a week for Hearst News Service.

Thomas joined United Press International in 1943 and began working in the White House in 1961 where she remained until May 2000. She has covered every president since the beginning of John F. Kennedy’s administration and is considered to be a journalism icon.

During the Kennedy administration, Thomas was the first woman to close a presidential news conference with the traditional Thank you, Mr. President. The practice of closing press conferences with the saying is still in use today.

Thomas covered Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater while working in the White House. She traveled around the world with presidents, including with Nixon on hi landmark trip to China in 1972. Thomas has also covered many national and international economic summits.

(Thomas) is an inspiration to young journalists, especially women, Gosin said.

She has served as President of the Women’s National Press Club in 1959-60 and was the first woman officer of the National Press Club. In addition, Thomas became the first woman officer of the White House Correspondents Association in its fifty years of existence, and served as the first woman president in 1975-76.

In addition to numerous awards, Thomas has received honorary degrees from many universities, including one from GW in 1999.

Thomas published her memoir, Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times, in 1999.

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