Helen Thomas: “Because I’m So Sassy.”

On the occasion of the release of her latest book, legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas sits down for an interview with Time magazine.

An excerpt:

What do you think of bloggers?
Everyone with a laptop thinks they’re a journalist. Everyone with a cell phone thinks they’re a photographer. So our profession is sidelined in a way. There’s no turning back. It’s frightening because you can ruin lives and reputations willy-nilly without realizing it. No editors. No standards. No ethics. We’re at the crossroads. So many newspapers that are so valuable are going down the drain. It’s a crisis.

Do you see a way out of this crisis?
I’m praying. I’m praying that we’ll still have newspapers. That’s where you get in-depth information. You can’t get it from headline news or these very brief things on TV or on blogs. They don’t explain anything.

What would you say to a recent journalism graduate who’s watching newspapers and magazines fold left and right?
I’d say go for it. Keep your standards high. Understand that your role is to seek the truth, wherever it leads you.

You’re known for saying “Thank you, Mr. President” at the end of each White House press conference. How did that tradition begin?
The tradition had been built up from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who always let the senior wire-service reporter in the room conclude each news conference. At one time, my boss at UPI had that honor, and he always said “Thank you.” Then that privilege went to an AP reporter, who always said “Thank you.” Then suddenly it was me.

Why do you think you’re best remembered for it?
Because I’m so sassy. Most people worship at their shrine. They bow and scrape, and I say, “Who’s this?” I sound very sophisticated, but I’m not. I’ve seen photographs of myself with my mouth open and wide-eyed when I see the President, and I say to myself, I’m not that jaded. I can tell I’m a fraud.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.