Helen Thomas (1920-2013)
Today, criticism of your government's leader, policy, or behavior could get you blacklisted, or at the very least, "watched". It depends on how you phrase it, in which venue, and the level of your probing or persistence. Thinking a thing is one thing. But blatently, passionately stating it or pursuing the truth of it (or worse, mediatizing your pursuit of an inquiry), can cost you your career as a journalist.
Press conferences don't seem the same without her. Where are the gutsy, probing, really tough questions today? The ones we all want answers to that just aren't being asked (or if asked, repeatedly go unanswered). I watched a press conference recently where reporters stood or sat, pen and notepad ready, and to almost every question came the shrugfull response: "We'll have to get back to you on that"; "I don't know the answer to that"; "I can't comment on that, it's classified"; "We don't know at this time", "I'm not authorized to divulge that information. ..... Next question?"
If you blow the whistle on corruption, you are not thanked; instead you yourself sometimes become a target. If you question the lack of evidence, you are considered impertinent (or a conspiracy theorist). If you ask too many questions, you are first marginalized; then made an example of. The result from the public is not, as one might expect, revolution, but apathy.
I imagine a future where at press conferences or daily briefings to reporters, official spokespersons will probably be dispensed with altogether. Some underling will be designated to show up and hand out prepared printed statements, which reporters can then use to paraphrase and regurgitate into their respective 'reports'. By that time maybe no one will be reading newspapers or watching the news anymore, televised fictional happenings long having replaced the real news; besides, nobody could tell the difference, they've gone mad trying. And so it goes, as Vonnegut would've said.
They go where others sometimes fear to tread
and wind up dead
(or shunned or ridiculed,
sent politely to the back row
so as not to be so in your face.
'Now, now, behave yourself', is what is meant.
Know your place.)
But if questions don't get asked no more --
does that mean we already know the score?
or that it no longer
R.I.P. Helen Thomas