One of the premier commentators in the early days of radio news was Dorothy Thompson. A rareity in the field of radio journalism because of her sex, Thompson came to radio later in her career having forged her credentials in the print world.
On July 9th, 1893, the Reverend Peter and Margaret Thompson gave birth to their daughter, Dorothy. She attended Syracuse University and graduated in 1914; "even so she was better remembered as an embracer of causes than as a student of note. Her interest was politics and economics and when she failed in grammar and could not be a teacher, she joined the suffrage movement, making powerful speeches for it all over New York State."(1) Dorothy had her sights set on becoming a writer. She contributed stories to the New York magazines to no avail. To help the family with expenses, she took a job working for the Women's State Suffrage Party. It was here she honed her craft by writing publicity items and promoting women's issues. When the Suffrage Amendment was passed, she moved on to other public relations jobs landing finally with National Social Unit Organization promoting social rights.
In the fall of 1919, she no longer was needed to help the family and using the little money she saved up from her work, she left for Europe and began interviewing socially relevant people including Zionist leaders while on the boat heading to Europe. The interviews were for the International News Service and were turned into articles. This led to a job as reporter for the Jewish Correspondence Bureau. From there she continued to publish news articles that were used by the Philadelphia Public Ledger, eventually, landing a job as Vienna correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. Soon after, the Public Ledger offered the permanent positon as Berlin correspondent.
She was becoming well-known in America as her writings were picked up by other papers. In Europe, she was able to interview world leaders including Gustav Stresemann, Aristide Briand, Georgy Chicherin, Leon Trotsky, and Mustava Atatürk. She also obtained exclusive interviews with Sigmund Freud and Richard Strauss.
In the late 1920's after divorcing her husband, Josef Bard, a Hungarian writer, she met the author Sinclair Lewis. She resigned as the Bureau Chief of the Central European Service for the Public Ledger, married Lewis and the birth of her son Michael, soon followed. They returned to the U.S. but by 1931, she was ready to become more serious about her writing and reporting.
Continuing her work as a print journalist for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, she returned to Berlin and was able to interview Adolph Hitler. Partly out of this interview, partly out of her own values formed from her childhood, Dorothy became an outspoken anti-Nazi. However, she also predicted that Hitler would never come to power in Germany, but when he did, nonetheless, she became identified as a "leading opponent of the Hitler regime." From her articles and a book, I Saw Hitler, her writings so infuriated the Nazi government that she was deported with only a 24 hour notice. "Indeed, she was the first foreign correspondent in Europe to whom any such thing had happened," (2) wrote biographer Peter Kurth. On August 25, 1934 she was ordered to leave the country by Ernst Hanfstaengl. Her hatred of Hitler showed. "The expulsion suddenly catapulted Dorothy Thompson into fame and, ironically enough, contributed vastly to her rise in political journalism." (3)
When Dorothy Thompson returned to New York, she began writing a regularly syndicated column (1936) for the New York Herald Tribune to be called "On the Record" and took up the lecture circuit speaking about Facism and the Nazis. While on the speaking tour, CBS offered her an opportunity to do her speaking into a radio microphone. But she turned it down only later to accept a similar offer from NBC Radio as a commentator for the Democratic and Republican Conventions. The articulate, perceptive radio work resulted in a contract for a weekly series of commentaries. This radio work and the column combined with her notoriety as the only female journalist to be thrown out of Nazi Germany, propelled Thompson to national fame.Sources