Emerson’s journalism community is mourning the loss of legendary White House journalist Helen Thomas, who routinely made time to meet with Emerson students and faculty over the years—as recently as last January at her home.
Thomas died July 20 at the age of 92.
“For years, Helen was very generous to me,” said Marsha Della-Giustina, associate professor of journalism. “When I was the Journalism Department chair and would take students to Washington, D.C., she got us into the Press Room briefing at the White House and one time we got to see President George H.W. Bush.”
Dustin Wlodkowski ’15, a reporter for Emerson television station WEBN, interviewed Thomas at her home for the station website last January along with Catherine Ross ’13 while covering President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“Sitting on her floor like kindergarteners, Catherine and I asked all about her decades-long career covering the White House,” Wlodkowski said, “which wasn’t easy because we were stared down by dozens of press awards sitting on her shelves.”
Thomas is remembered as a trailblazer for women journalists, covering every president from John F. Kennedy to Obama. A reporter for United Press International for 57 years, Thomas was a columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, and retired after making controversial remarks about Israel.
“Regardless of the controversial end to her career, she paved the way for women in the White House Press Room, which is still dominated by men,” Wlodkowski said.
“She was an incredible journalist,” Della-Giustina said.
Della-Giustina said Thomas always met with Emerson students and even has an autographed picture of Thomas with the students hanging on her office wall.
“She told us we’d be great journalists and to always fight to get the truth no matter what,” Wlodkowski said. “I’m lucky to be among the many people who were inspired by meeting her.”