A year ago I wrote at length about the Society of Professional Journalists and its Helen Thomas problem. Thomas, then 90, had made remarks that greatly troubled many SPJ members as anti-Semitic—I’d describe them as anti-Zionist, but not everyone believes that a serious distinction—and the SPJ leadership asked itself what, if anything, should be done about the organization’s Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. Should it be left alone? Should it be renamed?
The executive committee voted six to one to leave the award as is, but retire it.
Thomas’s most passionate champion a year ago was Christine Tatum, a former president of SPJ’s Chicago chapter, the Headline Club, and in 2006-’07 president of the national organization. Tatum posted a long commentary on Facebook headed “How SPJ lost the P in its name when communicating with Helen Thomas.” Its focus was “the shameful way” in which SPJ treated Thomas while it was deciding what, if anything, to do about the award in her honor.