Helen Thomas, who has covered the White House for 45 years (first for UPI and now for Hearst), can now be heard on a “podcast” available free on the SF Chron’s SFGate.com web site. (A podcast is a recording on computer file that can be downloaded to a personal computer or Ipod. Podcasts can be audio or video, but Thomas’s podcast is sound only.) Her interview sounds a lot like a segment on an NPR news show and the first one ran 7 minutes, 37 seconds. It begins with an audio signature for the Chronicle — sounds of a cable car and a bell — followed by an introduction by Marc Sandalow, the Chron’s Washington bureau chief. Sandalow’s no stranger to broadcasting — he moonlights as a political commentator on KCBS 740 — so he gives the program a professional sound. Thomas, 85, is her usual self. Asked about President Bush’s State of the Union address, she says: “I think this was pretty dull and pretty bereft. He has run out of ideas, run out of gas.” Previously, she’s said that Bush will go down in history as the nation’s worst president and that she’d kill herself if Vice President Cheney runs for president. Thomas originally did straight news for UPI but moved into the role as a commentator a few years ago when she joined Hearst, the Chron’s owner. The Drudge Report reported Jan. 26 that Bush is avoiding questions from Thomas at news conferences. SFGate.com, in its introduction to this new form of journalism, says that podcasts will expand on stories appearing in the newspaper and on SFGate.com, while others will be stories unto themselves. The SFGate.com site appears to be building a library of podcasts for people to download, covering diverse topics ranging from country and western music to sex, from wine to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.