(Note: Ralph Nader reflects on Helen Kahn, who was a Washington reporter for Automotive News for 27 years.)
I first met Helen Kahn in late 1965 when she invited me to lunch at the National Press Club to talk about my new book, Unsafe at Any Speed.
Dropping by Helen's office on the way to lunch was memorable. It was not just the piles of paper that defied the law of gravity.
It was that out of this tiny office year after year came copy that filled a third of Automotive News and sometimes more - especially when the regulatory battles heated up.
At lunch she kept up a calm but steady line of inquiry about how and why I wrote this book-long criticism of the automobile industry and about the suppression of safety devices that were developed decades earlier.
I had just obtained the early copies of the book and gave one to her. She proceeded to be one of the earliest and certainly the most prolific reporter about this epic struggle, which led to safer, more crashworthy motor vehicles.
Helen was unfailingly polite and persistent. Her reporting was fair, accurate and, needless to say, expressive of lengthy detail. I never saw her lose her temper and never heard a negative word about her work - other than that she wrote stories that some companies and dealers wished had not seen the light of day.
Helen's professionalism gave Automotive News a reputation for news and features; it was not just another captive trade journal.