Helen Thomas' New Boss Assails Journalist Groups for Stripping Thomas' Name From Awards

Jan 21, 2011, 15:30 ET from Falls Church News-Press

FALLS CHURCH, Va., Jan. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The news this week that the board of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) voted to terminate an annual lifetime achievement award named for veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas prompted Thomas' new employer to publish a scathing statement in this week's edition of his Falls Church News-Press. Nicholas F. Benton, in his regular national affairs column, titled this week, "The Unsinkable Helen Thomas," denounced the move by both the SPJ and the media department at Wayne State University, which took a similar action last month.

Benton cited comments by veteran journalist Lloyd H. Weston opposing the moves, which said, "I no more believe that Helen Thomas is an anti-Semite than I believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But... the only issue on your table today is whether SPJ stands for the unabridged right of any journalist -- and American -- to speak his or her opinion, on any subject, without fear of punishment or retribution from any government, individual, private or professional organization."

Benton wrote, "So what is the purpose of the (SPJ) award, if not to elevate the critical role of journalism, and the platform of free speech on which it stands in a democratic society?" He added that to now present an award with Helen Thomas' name stripped from it "will henceforth bear with it a silent condemnation of its givers as cowardly hypocrites who retreated in the heat of controversy to allow forces of intimidation to betray free speech values."

The complete column can be viewed at www.FCNP.com

Contact: Leslie Poster (703) 532-3267, ext. 010, lposter@fcnp.com

SOURCE Falls Church News-Press