Historian Martha Joynt Kumar ’63 honored by journalists in Washington
There’s a famous saying that journalists write the first rough draft of history. Martha Joynt Kumar ’63 has devoted her career to serving as a bridge between that first draft and the permanent record we rely on historians to preserve.
On April 28, Kumar was recognized by the White House Correspondents’ Association with the prestigious President’s Award for her contributions as an indispensable resource to journalists in Washington, D.C.
“I was honored to receive this award because it signifies the importance reporters place on understanding the nature of the presidency and the rhythms of a White House,” Kumar said.
Kumar is a scholar of the presidency and the press who has spent two decades recording and analyzing the relationship between journalists and the White House. Reporters have long appreciated her unique statistics and data that help give contemporary reporting important context. Her records and historical knowledge have become so widely regarded as authoritative that both are used frequently by reporters pushing for more access to the president and administration officials.
"Martha is a treasure to White House correspondents—an incredible resource who is uniquely accessible in real time because of her regular presence in the briefing room and press workspace and her ongoing discussions with the administration," said White House Correspondents’ Association President Margaret Talev. "When covering a president who prides himself on upending the status quo and leaving his own mark on traditions, it's especially valuable to have Martha's expertise to help put his words and actions in context with past administrations."
An emeritus professor in the Department of Political Science at Towson University, Kumar currently serves as the director of the White House Transition Project and sits on the board of the White House Historical Association. She is the author of Managing the President's Message: The White House Communications Operation and several other books and articles on the way the press and presidency operate and interact. According to Kumar, she won’t be slowing down any time soon.
“Every administration I have followed up close from Gerald Ford to Donald Trump has been an interesting one,” she said. “I plan on staying right where I am, observing the relationship between reporters and officials and then talking to people on both sides.”