I was psyched to catch up today with Helen Thomas, the dean of the White House press corps, after she spoke to students at Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood about Women's History Month. The trailblazing Thomas followed Kennedy from the campaign trail to the White House and has been a fixture in the first row of presidential news conferences ever since.
This year, as Women's History Month approached, the legendary journalist was notified that when the press corps moves in May from their temporary home back to their permanent White House digs, Thomas will lose her front-row briefing room seat to a cable news channel. Ironic? Helen thought so.
Thomas usually comes to the press secretary’s morning “gaggle” but does not always attend the afternoon briefing, so sometimes her seat is empty. It’s the only seat that traditionally is left vacant if unoccupied. Every other chair gets filled in by those without regular seats, whose questions do not always live up to Thomas’s zingers.
Steve Scully, president of the White House Correspondents Association, which traditionally decides the seating arrangement, said Thomas was “very gracious” when he approached her about the possible change.
“The wires and three networks have had a front-row seat dating back to the Nixon administration, when the West Wing briefing room opened,” explained Scully, who is C-SPAN’s senior executive producer and political editor. “When discussions began two years ago about redesigning the briefing room, both Fox and CNN expressed an interest in having a front-row seat. Among the criteria for seating arrangements are the size of the news organization a reporter represents and the frequency with which they attend the briefings. Helen Thomas remains the dean of the White House press corps, and we will make certain her needs are met. She has been terrific in understanding our situation." A final decision will be made by the group's board within a month.
* Geography observed: Harvard Westlake says their Coldwater Canyon campus is in North Hollywood. LA City Nerd notes it's actually in Studio City.
Nice post on Helen Thomas - a true media institution. I just wanted to let you know that Harvard-Westlake (Harvard being the all-boys campus in question that was merged with all-girls Westlake) is not in North Hollywood. I know on their website they claim to be and when they formed in 1937 they might have been, but today, in 2007 (and for at least the last 40 years) they are in Studio City. There is no part of North Hollywood that stretches down south of the 101 (and with the naming craze of the last 15 years, North Hollywood really barely extends east of the 170, except in the northern most reaches of the once large community). So, ignore the CalTrans sign on the 101 westbound before Coldwater announcing North Hollywood as the the next exit, there is no North Hollywood off of Coldwater unless you go North and pass Vanowen. Harvard-Westlake is in Studio City.