Sarah McClendon

Our oldest White House correspondent has some critical words for the press–and for government.


On Sarah McClendon’s first day as a White House correspondent, Bill Clinton was still a twinkle in his mother’s eye. It was 1944, and McClendon–just out of the U.S. Army where she had served as a public information officer with the Women’s Army Corps in World War II–was a rookie reporter assigned to cover Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A thousand miles from her hometown of Tyler, Texas, she knew little about presidential politics and was at first too nervous to ask any questions.

Ten presidents later, McClendon is still covering the White House. Under the banner of her McClendon News Service (which includes two part-time staff members and one intern), she cranks out a weekly syndicated newspaper column, a biweekly newsletter, and a weekly radio commentary that airs on 1,200 stations across the nation. At the age of 85 (86 this July), McClendon is the true dean of the Washington press corps–a decade older than the venerable Helen Thomas of UPI.

Her age and dependence on a wheelchair, or cane, make it difficult for her to pursue stories as vigorously as she once did. But, continuing to fight for “the people’s right to know,” McClendon still doesn’t miss a day in the White House press room.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate