Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis

Me and Helen Thomas

This is my LJ entry on August 4, 2005

Helen Thomas is 85 today. It was in August 32 years ago when she changed my life.

I was a very young newspaper reporter in a small town in central South Carolina. In those days - pre Woodward and Bernstein - a print journalist 'created' a career by moving from paper to paper and gathering experience and clips. I had started out in Wheeling, WVa. I got my big break when I was hired by the Pittsburgh Press. I started on Monday and they went on strike on Tuesday - for 3 years. But I didn't stick around even for three weeks.

My parents were living in Aiken, South Carolina. Actually, they were just getting ready to move to North Carolina. I went to visit and stopped in at the newspaper there and got hired. It was actually a good gig as newspapers go. I got to do a bit of everything. I was even the sports editor for a few months. I was on track and making tracks. Until Helen Thomas stopped me in my tracks.

It was a Sunday morning in August and I was reading the Sunday paper and drinking my coffee. I got to Parade and opened up the Q&A section in the front cover.

Q: "Is Helen Thomas the only female reporter in the White House? How much does she make?"
A: "Helen Thomas is the only White House print reporter (and the first) and makes $29,000 a year."

WTF??!!!!!! Even in the early 70's and even as a person of the lower class (female), I had hoped after basciallion years (which is what I figured Helen Thomas had logged in) of reporting I would be making more than $29,000 a year!

That was it. I was done. Being a newspaper reporter in those days was no glamor job. I remember my father kept asking me when I was going to get a job he could tell his friends about - having a daughter who was a reporter was embarrassing. Lois Lane and Helen Thomas - that was it as far as the public knew - for female reporters. But, I liked the investigative bits. I loved being in the know and having a license to be nosey. However, honestly, I wasn't that good. And $29,000??!! NFW.

Three months later, I was selling office equipment for IBM. My starting salary, before commissions was $18,000. My first year, I made $30,000.

So, thanks, Helen... Happy birthday. I hope you got a raise.

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