tv Lectures in History Watergate 50 Years Later CSPAN June 18, 2022 8:00pm-9:02pm EDT
washington posts reporting. in the next hour will discuss and examine how the heroic journalist journalist myth of watergate took hold. and why it is so tenacious. but also discuss what some of the principles of the washington post? principles that the post at the time of the watergate scandal have had to say about this interpretation of watergate. and will consider why it matters we'll consider the so what question. why debunking this myth? matters along the way we'll have some time for q&a. here are a few names that will encounter. during our class today. bob woodward and carl bernstein these are these were reporters for the washington post the lead
reporters on the watergate scandal for the post. and they teamed up in 1972 and were together through the scandal in 1974. together they wrote two books about the watergate scandal. catherine graham is another name that will encounter she was the posts publisher. during the watergate period the post then was a family-owned newspaper. and she was publisher from 1969 to 1979. she backed the watergate investigation. sometimes in the face of government pressure catherine graham died in 2001 ben bradley is another name will encounter today. he was the posts executive editor at the time. that is the top newsroom official. of a newspaper ben bradley broadly oversaw the watergate coverage of his newspaper he was
executive editor from 1968 to 1991 a period that roughly corn caused coincided with. the posts rise to the top ranks of american journalism bradley died in 2014 another name we'll hear is that of michael gettler michael gettler. he was the post's ombudsman or in-house media critic. from 2000 to 2005 and during his tenure gittler has a very interesting and important reminders to make about the post and the watergate scandal. gaettler became the first ombudsman later on at pbs. he excelled in this role of in-house critic of ombudsman. as we'll see. the scandal that was watergate was sprawling in dimensions. it was a scandal of unprecedented proportion at the highest levels of the federal government.
to roll up a scandal of the complexity and breadth of watergate required the concerted if not always can coordinated effort of both houses of congress investigative panels from both houses of congress federal investigators special prosecutors fbi agents and ultimately the us supreme court it is safe to say. that exposing and unraveling the watergate scandal. was not was not in effect outsourced to the american news media rolling up. the scandal of watergate was not the work of two young aggressive reporters. the washington post but over the years but over the years that has become the dominant narrative of watergate. that woodward and bernstein of the washington post through their reporting brought down
exposed the misconduct in the nixon administration and brought down his presidency. it is a narrative that is woven into popular understanding of the watergate scandal. and it pops up often. it pops up often. so why has this become the dominant narrative of watergate? why is it that so many people? under misunderstand america's gravest political scandal let's take a look at those and related questions. during this presentation nixon in august 1974 became the first us president ever to resign the office. some 20 men associated with his presidency and his 1972 reelection campaign.
went to jail because of crimes committed. related to watergate it's a vast. and sprawling scandal as i said the dominant narrative of watergate has become that woodward and bernstein for the post brought down nixon's presidency through their dogged reporting. and why is this a medium myth? well, first of all. what is a media myth anyway? a media myth is a well-known. story prominent story about and/or by the news media that is widely believed and often retold. but which under scrutiny? under close examination dissolves as apocryphal. or wildly exaggerated a media myth and what are some examples of media myths? in my book getting it wrong i
lay out. 10 or 12 different media myths including this one about william randolph hearst the publisher of the new york journal the late 19th century who supposedly vowed to furnish the war with spain at the end of the 19th century. that a newspaper mogul was powerful enough to bring the country into a war that it otherwise would not have fought. that is a media myth. another medium myth has to do with walter cronkite of cbs news and his on-air assessment about the war in vietnam. at the end of february 1968 he said then that the us military effort in vietnam was mired in stalemate. and that negotiations might prove to be the way the us could extricate itself. from the quagmire of vietnam supposedly cronkite's interpretation his assessment was so powerful and so moving
that it swung public opinion dramatically against the war. in fact public opinion had been swinging against the war for months before the cronkite program. at the end of february 19 that too is a media driven myth. and then the heroic journalist myth of watergate. the country's gravest political scandal certainly of the 20th century. another example of a media driven myth it's very interesting to consider what principles at the washington post have said about their newspaper's role in the scandal. and they have tended not to embrace. the dominant narrative catherine graham said at the 25th anniversary. of the watergate break-in in june of 1972 she said in remarks
at the former museum. that sometimes people accuse us of bringing down a president, which of course we didn't do. a processes that cause nixon's resignation were constitutional ben bradley the executive editor of the post shown here with catherine graham said it about the same time in 1997 as a 25th anniversary of the break-in. it must be remembered. he said that the post didn't get nixon nixon got nixon. he was referring to secret tapes audio tapes that richard nixon had made of many of his conversations at the white house. and we'll take a look at that in a moment. but the important thing is is that bradley's saying the post didn't get nixon. woodward himself had this to say if perhaps an earlier terms but emphatic. the press did not bring down nixon.
and michael gattler the ombudsman whom i mentioned a moment ago had this to say in 2005. that ultimately it was not the post. but the fbi a congress acting in bipartisan fashion and the courts that brought down. the nixon administration indeed to roll up a scandal the complexity and dimension of watergate required the concerted if not coordinated efforts of special prosecutors. federal judges fbi both houses of congress the supreme court the justice and even then even then. nixon would have survived the scandal he would have walked. if not for the secret tapes that he had made of many of his conversations from 1971 to 1973. inside the white house and in his office in the old executive
office building nixon had a surreptitious taping system put in place. the existence of those tapes was disclosed in july 1973 during hearings of a senate select committee on watergate. this was not this is a pivotal moment in the investigation in watergate because if you had the president's words as to what he was saying at the time in his meetings with top aides his his white house counsel and others then we have a pretty good idea of what's going on in the watergate. inside the white house woodward & bernstein did not disclose the existence of those tapes. and indeed they were pivotal they were pivotal to understanding the complexity and the cover-up. of the seminal crime of watergate the break-in in june of 1972. no tapes nixon walks pretty simple and this is a interpretation endorsed by some of the leading historians of the watergate scandal including stanley cutler.
who wrote one of the finest books about watergate and its history no tapes nixon walks. so why does this persist? why does the heroic journalist interpretation of watergate persist in light of? the posts principles dismissing this notion sometimes in pretty crude terms why does it exist when it's pretty clear that there was a lot of forces a raid against richard nixon? in the watergate investigation why does it live on? it's a convenient shorthand for explaining the scandal. okay. watergate was a big-time scandal. woodward and bernstein for the post investigated they uncovered the misconduct in the corrupt practices of the nixon administration forcing the president to resign it's a very neat and tidy shorthand.
for explaining the scandal and that is emblematic of most media myths neat tidy simplistic. and easy explanation for a much broader more complex. turn of events. related to this factor is that it is an interpretation that avoids the complexities of watergate even at the time even when it was unraveling in 1973 in 1974 people had a hard time keeping all the actors straight. who was haldeman who was ehrlichman who was dean? who were these these players? and where did they fit in? and over the years over the passage of 50 years. it has become even more difficult. to keep it all straight who was who and watergate and where do they fit in? this story the heroic journalist interpretation cuts through all that complexity cuts through all
the other actors and focuses on the journalists and their work saying that their dogged reporting brought nixon. and another factor and explaining why this heroic journalist interpretation lives on is that it is reassuring to contemporary journalists. journalists who are going through tough times and have been going through tough times for more than 25 years. it tells them this. interpretation of watergate the gravest political scandal certainly of the 20th century tells them that journalists can be decisive factors decisive forces in american society in american politics these are three of the factors why this trope this interpretation lives on. what has propelled this myth? what has given its sustenance in life? for nearly 50 years the book
woodward and bernstein brought out in june of 1974 called all the president's men. was the best seller? was a runaway best-seller. and it purported to tell the story of the most devastating political detective story of the century. how two young washington post reporters whose brilliant investigative journalism smashed the watergate scandal wide open. that's from the dust jacket. of all the president's men the book was a great success and it offered. a journalist's brief for the watergate scandal as the scandal was reaching its culmination. with richard nixon's resignation again, the book comes out in june 74. two months later nixon has resigned so it is a centerpiece of the conversation. the book is a centerpiece of the
conversation. as watergate is hitting its climax. and even more popular than the book. is the cinematic version of all the president's men? the cinematic version it came out in april of 1976. to rave reviews to rave reviews it was a critical and commercial success. all the president's men and far more people have seen the movie. then i've read the book. then the third factor perhaps is important is the other two was this year's long guessing game? about the identity of a super secret source that woodward had a high-level government source with whom he met periodically in 1972 in 1973. the source had the code name deep throat. who was deep throat? became a parlor game an unending parlor game in effect in
washington, dc. for many years so let's take a look at each of these factors very briefly. all the president's been. runaway success. it was serialized in playboy before it came out in june of 1974. the reviews were overwhelmingly positive for the book. and it has never been out of print. it's gone through many additions over the years soft cover as well as hard cover. the movie starred robert redford, and dustin hoffman in the lead roles of woodward and bernstein respectively these actors were at the top of their career that peak of their career in the mid-1970s. and the film focused on the journalist even more so than the book. all the presidents men the movie was a media centric assessment of watergate and it excluded and
sometimes even denigrated the work of other agencies and entities in uncovering the scandal. focus on redford and hoffman woodward and bernstein helped to embed the idea that watergate was unraveled by these heroic young journalists. the movie was up for eight academy awards it won four. it did not win best picture. rocky sylvester stallone's rocky was the best picture in the year that the water that all the president's men was in competition. and then deep throat the book and the movie introduced the world to this shadowy character this high-level government source who sometimes met woodward in a garage and roslyn? the rosalind section of arlington just across the river. and there has been a plaque
established there to commemorate this. historic meetings if you will the book gave hints but no more than that as to deep throats identity. and this set in motion as i said years long guessing game is to who it is because in washington the coin of the realm is secrets or exposing secrets? who is this guy? and for a secret in washington to have been intact for as long as this one. is quite remarkable, it's quite something. deep throat borrowed its name from a couple of sources one that he met woodward on what they called deep background in other words. deep throat would give him some information, but he couldn't quote the source it was all on supposedly deep background. at the time or just before a controversial pornographic film came out with the title deep throat anyway, the name
deepthroat the source has identity. was a fascinating topic in washington and over the years a variety of sources. a variety of names were offered up as to potential candidates. who is deep throat? take a look at this list. henry kissinger the us secretary of state el patrick gray the former acting director of the fbi diane sawyer who worked for a while before going to network television in the nixon white house john dean. who was nixon's council in the early days of the watergate scandal pat buchanan, who is a nixon aid who later ran for president three times? sticking and failing to win the republican nomination for presidency alexander hague who was nixon's chief of staff later in the watergate period ron ziegler, he was the press
secretary. the one who mentioned who referred to watergate famously as a third rate burglary. these were all among the candidates these and many more were identified as likely sources. likely to have been deep throat. in fact, there were college courses. one of them at the university of illinois that spent semesters. digging through the tips and clues and hints and all the president's been to try to figure out. who the most likely source was? and one of these efforts identified pat buchanan an arch conservative republican who seemed on his face to be quite unlikely to have been deep throat. but since he was a native of washington or had lived in washington for many many years he knew some of the ins and outs that were discussed in the book. and to this college class. it seemed like he was the most likely candidate.
a very common and popular interpretation was that deep throat? was not a single individual. deep throat was a composite of a number of different sources. it was a literary device. to project an intriguing character but pulling from a different range of individuals a different a variety of sources a composite a literary device for a long time, i believe this was the case, too. that there could not have been a single deep throat, but there was probably several that were melded into a single character. one of the investigative teams for the los angeles times also publicly felt that this was the likely explanation for deep throats identity because they were following watergate as well and they knew some of the information that post was publishing was coming had to come from different sources. it couldn't have been from the same source. those reporters to the la times
thought composite thought this is a literary device. to propel the book to give it a mysterious central character and also to have in the movie this intriguing. guy who sort of lurks in garages mark felt was deep throat. he was the former number two at the fbi. and he leaked information to woodward. he never met bernstein until very late in his life. he met and leaked information to woodward because he wanted to become the number one guy at the fbi. the fbi director had died in may of 1972 a month before or six weeks before the watergate scandals seminal crime the break-in. the democratic national headquarters and that said in motion an intense rivalry to become who was going to become
the fbi director. there was an acting director el patrick gray. felt was number two. he wanted to become number one. so he was leaking information to undercut. his rivals inside the fbi. inside the fbi this is a an interpretation that is persuasive in my view and it's the subject of of a book length treatment called leak mark felt self-disclosed is deep throat in the year 2005 when he was in his 90s. encouraged by his family to do so leighton his life. so, you know if you look closely at the hairline here. there is some so maybe there was a hint or clue in the movie the 1976 movie. that the deepthroat character
played by how holbert played exquisitely well by how holbrook it's actually kind of mark felt mark felt's name surfaced frequently in the speculation about who is deep throat. he always denied it. he said i want occasion. if i had been deepthroat, i i would have done it better. he threw people off the trail and woodward helped too. there was a little bit of circumvention on woodward's part he said at one point that deep throat was not in the intelligence community in washington. the fbi most people would link into the intelligence community in washington, dc it would be unfair to disregard some of the most important stories that the washington post produced during the watergate scandal. they were the first to identify.
a security official the security coordinator for the committee to re-elect the president as being among the watergate burglars. great linkage from those burglars from this third rate burglary into nixon's reelection campaign they linked contributions to nixon's reelection campaign. and the break-in that some of the money contributions made to the campaign were used to help fund the break-in of democratic national headquarters. another important linkage and then they tied the likes of john mitchell who was a former attorney general. former us attorney general and top nixon campaign a campaign manager to operations against the democrats important stories important stories all of these stories were published in the first four months or so of the watergate scandal and by october
1972 the city editor of the washington post. realize that we were essentially out of gas on watergate. there were other watergate stories, but these were the principal stories that the post had published. in the first months of the scandals unfolding these and others. and for those for those reports the post one the public service award. given by the pulitzer committee the most prestigious pulitzer in journalism but it's also important to keep in mind. there are important stories that the post did not break. they did not expose the cover-up of the crimes of watergate. they said it was too high. too high up to expose the payment of hush money to watergate burglars to keep them quiet to buy their silence. was a story broken first by the
new york times not by the washington post. and the existence of nixon's taping system and the incriminating audio tapes. that nixon had made woodward in his book said that he had a lead. he and bernstein had a lead on this taping system, but ben bradley encouraged them. well doesn't sound like all that great of a story so they didn't pursue it and a few days later. it came out that that there was this taping system. also not often discussed in the dominant narrative of watergate are the ethical lapses? of woodward and bernstein they encourage federal grand jurors hearing watergate testimony. in secret to violate their oaths and discuss watergate testimony with them. even approaching a federal grand juror and asking that grand
juror to shed the oath of secrecy can be a crime. bernstein himself and this is described in the book. look for and obtained private telephone records of individuals. whoops and they also ratted out an fbi source. here's a clip from a program. in 2014. they incorrectly reported that hugh sloan had told a grand jury white house chief of staff. hr holderman controlled the fun which paid for all that espionage and sabotage. i assume you're referring to the testimony for the grand jury is reported in washington post this morning. correct our answer that is an unequivocally an equivocal. no, we did not mr. sloan did not implicate mr. holman that testimony at all. this must be the moment when you
throw up worse. we thought we might have to quit. how many sources did you have for that story? we had two or three and we had some logic and of course logic is in the source, and that's one of the lessons that we learned and it was it was painful. so painful that they ratted out an fbi agent. they thought had lied to them about haldeman. they went to his boss. it was the worst of journalism. look we'd accused the number one aid to the president of the united states and the attribution was wrong. we were desperate young men. so you blew a source deliberately blew a source. yes. what's the ethics of that? probably not terribly good. so why aren't these ethical lapses? more often recognized why aren't
they more? central to the dominant narrative of watergate. what do you think is an explanation as to why we don't hear more about this kind of stuff. maybe because the ethical boxes like weren't i guess the public didn't necessarily see them like as bad as like the watergate scandal itself, so they were willing to accept like, okay. this is like dirty journalism, but like they were willing to accept that over the fact that like the watergate scandal happened in the first place like this wouldn't be great reporting on any other story, but it's because it was over a massive scandal already that it like kind of didn't look that bad to the public i guess so it was kind of more insignificant and the broader context dismissed because people were too preoccupied with the actual story than how the story came to be. do you think that it's possible
too that these are more of those details that get in the way of keeping it straight? there's just so much about watergate even this little clip. showed a lot of sprawl and a lot of complexity. do you think that's a factor? in this eden that like there's just too many things happening that i think getting into like the journalistic ethics of it. all is like complicating things too much for a lot of the the public who like isn't focused on journalistic ethics like it just gets too complicated. okay fair enough, i agree. it may be more of an academic pursuit and less of a sort of popular. understanding, okay. kind of burden off of that. i don't think many people even probably like knew about the ethics of it or like how they were getting their sources or about it. like i think what people were more concerned with the story and i think a lot of times like if your own personal rights aren't like being violated then i don't think you would not i
won't say not care, but i don't think you pay as much attention to it and then especially because of the nature of the story. it was like so big i think people just wanted to get the information and they cared less about like how it was coming. fair enough you think today though do you think today that this kind of journalistic misconduct would be signaled flagged and brought to the attention. i mean the media landscape is so i feel like diverse when it's on a scale this big like with like a presidential cover-up or like with like something like that. i think i think you might have some critics who might like say like, hey the journalistic ethics aren't really great here. they're not making the best choices, but i think most people again would probably be too consumed with the actual story that they're getting to really care about how they're getting it. no because this is kind of a side show in a way. what's the story becomes like really big then i think people care less about how they get it unless it affects a lot of people but i feel like if it
affects the people that they're investigating the story about that people care like want to know about then i think they are less concerned with that person's rights being respected very good fair enough isabel yeah, i would just say that like people were so willing to accept this media-driven myth as something sensationalized and i think like these two men were sort of the figureheads for bringing this to justice like bringing president nixon down that i think like when you're so focused on the individuals in a heroic sense like that. people are more willing to say like, oh, well the end justify the means, you know, like it's fine that they had to do this or it doesn't really matter because look at all the good they did like, i think people scales are just shifted. do you think that would be in play today, do you think it would say? okay the greater outcome is more
important here than the hate the same same minutia, but the minor details. comparatively speaking. still get caught up in like the heroic tales people. love to believe a good story and i think again, like people could there might be a few critics, but definitely not enough to sort of sway the court of public opinion in terms of like what these men did or you know what the journalists were able to do even if it wasn't entirely ethical? and you're right. this is a you know, a david and goliath kind of story and and you know that has long been a popular narrative long been a popular narrative to pursue is to why? this these ethical lapses are not more central to the dominant narrative or that they don't cloud the dominant narrative a little more prominent way.
kyle i'm like support the idea that this is a very much a david and goliath's story. i think that's something that people are always crave to feed into it's something we like to see that as small reporters like we're able to take down like large figureheads in the government and i think this like kind of goes back to the idea of like the declaration of independence and like that we have the power to like make a change in our government and overthrow it so i think we all want to feed into this narrative and supportive even if there's ethics being in question because i think we don't always see government officials or like fbi agents as humans. i think like the roles in the titles can dehumanize these people interesting thanks, marissa final thought on this question. like at the time like who's going to admit this, you know like this kind of story like saying that they did things that were unethical like makes all
journalists look bad and in that sense, no journalist is gonna put it on their front page, you know, they're like new york times is gonna be like the washington post was completely unethical in this because that's gonna reflect badly on. newspapers and media as a whole and they don't want to do that, especially when everybody's praising them at this time, like they don't want to ruin it. so nobody's really gonna say it that loudly in the media which means like their audience like the people aren't really gonna take it and fair enough and some of this was known at the time so it was contemporaneous with the unfolding scandals that reached its climax in 1974. the book describes how bernstein sought and obtained private telephone records. the book also describes how they approached federal grand jurors and got into deep trouble doing so and so the book is kind of candid about some of these encounters. so it's not unknown at the time. i'm wondering why i wouldn't have been seized upon even by
book critics is saying oh, you know, there's a lot more to this story than we've. understood already why do you think that would have been? overlooked largely i think in the sense that like it's not buried but like it's in a book that like a lot of people read but it's not like right in front of you, you know in the way that like it would be if it was like on the front of a newspaper or something so it doesn't really make the public consciousness the way that like the headlines that were happening at the time did all right, fair enough fair enough good, thanks folks. so some takeaways here. the heroic journalist interpretation of watergate is erroneous. the contributions of woodward and bernstein while perhaps high profile overall in the broad sweep of the trajectory of the watergate scandal were modest at best. not decisive they were not
decisive forces and factors in bringing down nixon other forces and factors. we've mentioned them a couple of times. federal investigators special prosecutors the us supreme court investigative panels of both houses of congress those forces and factors deserve far more recognition for unraveling for understanding for getting a comprehension of the watergate scandal. for the public and i think in the end we should probably take woodward at his word. he is said that the mythologizing of our role in watergate has gone to the point of absurdity. where journalists right that i single-handedly brought down richard nixon. totally absurd the washington post he wanted to say had some part in a chain of events that are described in our book. that were part of a very long and complicated process. why don't we take woodward at his word on this? say hey. okay. he says the dominant narrative is bogus. why don't we take him in this?
why doesn't this puncture? the dominant narrative of watergate what do you suppose? this hasn't had more impact. loop go ahead please. think one reason and you've already discussed this. i don't know if it's worth repeating a whole lot but it's a it's not as glamorizing of an answer to reshare for teachers to describe in class. it's it's more neat and tighter to say. bernstein and woodward took down these giants right? so to say oh, well, here's these complex ways in which this worked is a lot, you know requires more depth that requires more investigation on the part of people resharing the story and teaching people so to simplify it. to its like most basic parts. it's easier to reshare and keep
you know propelling this myth. than to dig into it and try to figure out the ins and outs and all the all the many details fair enough fair enough why does this live on why does this myth live on what do you think are the reasons why? i'll offer three reasons. but before i do any thoughts any thoughts as to why this myth lives on. even please. i think people just really like heroes. i mean, i think we see it all the time like with other news stories that maybe like i guess less explosive but like with the covid pandemic we saw like i mean half the country was like worshiping anthony fauci for like a year, like people just really like having someone to like attached to and like someone to portray as their hero
and i think it comes from like being taught fantasy as a child. but like i legitimately just think that they really just wanted a guy who they were like, this is our man like he did this for us and they just so happened to be woodward and bernstein. very good fair enough other thoughts as to why what are some of the factors here? heroic element for sure luke i'm not sure what it was like at the time, but i know now. plays into the trope that nixon was as villain. so if you have a hero you have to have a villain and nixon has become somewhat of this like villainous character over the years for sure. that's a good point indeed. he does have that. he does project that. i mean it did at the time he did at the time even though he was reelected by overwhelming margins in 1972. this villain is character richard. nixon was well known to the american population. again one of the reasons i would
argue is that it's easy to retell. it's easy to remember this trope and it's easy to retell. it's also a celebration of journalists. eden mentioned the hero element and in a way that's this relates to the celebration of journalists. we can't overlook the impact of cinema. cinemas impact in this impressing the myth into the popular consciousness all the president's been the movie was a factor for sure. and woodward and bernstein now in their 70s are still prominent on the national media stage. which of these four factors in your view is perhaps most persuasive if you had to say, okay, one of the four is most persuasive and this is it and why? here mine would easy, i would say it's easy to remember and
retell i think a lot of times. like who unless you're like really into politics or even like journalism or communications? you're probably not going back and rereading all the details of the watergate scandal, so you'll hear about it and you'll hear what is most easy to remember by other people to tell so you'll get second that secondhand dollars. so i think that's probably that would be my argument for it because i think that's just what happens the most so people aren't getting accurate information. nicely said the summarization here is is a driving factor. other likely reasons which of the four isabel i'm actually gonna go with number three and probably say that the movie did the most work to probably convince popular consciousness that this was a thing that really happened and you should believe it because i think cinema more than even like
marissa was talking about earlier like even more than like headlines on a newspaper because not everyone reads the same newspapers or is going to really care about specific journalists, but a movie that was well received. well made well acted that came out right when this was sort of like at the forefront of everyone's political consciousness probably did a lot of the legwork to convince people that this was something that you should believe in and care about so cinema as myth propellant. in other words and it's true that movies can present very appealing delicious tales that are focused on individual agency all the president's men certainly was and it's easy to understand and it's entertaining and sort of. doesn't go on forever the washington post one time called all the presidents men american journalism's greatest two hours and 16 minutes on on film and so
it's not hard to see. how cinema. has had that effect of reinforcing and embedding the media myth into the popular consciousness. so yeah, it's that's a a good point. what other? arguments could be made for these four factors. we've heard two good arguments for a and c are there others. that we can emphasize here. does anyone else want to? argue for another interpretation well i don't want to argue for another one. i want to agree with isabel but on simpler terms because i believe see, so it all the president's men the movie. i think it influences a b c andy. so all the president's men, whether it's the book the movie both. they're much easier to remember and retail a teacher can throw on the movie and eat up a class rather than go into a week of diving into the complexities of federal entities investigations.
ethical decisions, etc. for b. all the president's been certainly it's a celebration of journalists and you see it in film and then finally i would argue that a reason woodward and bernstein are still prominent other than you know. reporting chops and being so important at the post is due to a movie that you know in book that kind of glamorize them and made them into somewhat a celebrities. so i think see if affects all of these and i agree with you that abc and d are all reasons that the myth lives on very good. yeah. and it's it's hard to argue that you movie doesn't. distill watergate into a very compact and digestible package. so yeah, very important interpretation there luke. thanks. other thoughts about which of the four factors is perhaps most significant is most dominant and explaining the dominant narrative and you know the movie
you said, you know, it's easy for a for teacher to slap it on and show in a class all the president's been the movie has been used as a how-to guide for investigative reporting and there's some elements of investigative journalism that you can watch that movie and pick up. tips from how about this factor? the illusory truth effects the illusory truth effect does this play a role? in solidifying and perpetuating the myth and what you might ask is the illusory truth effect. that's a great phrase you can use on friends and acquaintances. what you just said sounds like to me like the illusory truth effect. an impress them to no end. this is an inclination to believe in inaccuracy if that inaccuracy is repeated over and
over if we we hear it a lot. if we encounter this often enough this test this repetition leads to a sense of validity. it doesn't make it accurate. it doesn't make it true. but it makes it seem authentic. the illusory truth effect anyone want to try to link the illusory truth effect to the dominant narrative of watergate. even i feel like this story of like woodward and bernstein as like the heroes of the watergate story and like the guys responsible for taking down nixon and a lot of those like kind of falsehoods that we talked about earlier like those things got repeated in every us history class i've ever taken that i've covered the 1970s. like i have a history minor. i've taken an extensive amount of us history classes every time you talk about the presidency every time you talk about nixon watergate woodward and bernstein.
those are like the three things that you have to know when it comes like your a+ test and in your senior year of high school, like that's just always been how it is. and that's always been the story at least that i've been told in like public public school growing up like they just always said that so i just always believed it because they just kept saying it so i think it probably does have that kind of effect because i'm sure i'm not the only person in that position where that was all we got taught. fair enough and i think you're right. you're probably not the only person in that position the illusory truth effect. having had that effect the repetition. of an inaccuracy or misinterpreted account takes on a certain validity so a few final thoughts as we begin to wrap up. i argue that to explain watergate through the lens through the prism of the heroic journalists is to a bridge and indeed to misunderstand this scandal this sweeping scandal
unmatched proportion in us history and to indulge in a particularly beguiling and tenacious media-driven myth. so what? let's return to one of our favorite questions this semester. okay. so what does it tell us? so why should we? be concerned. and if we can't answer the so what question it lends itself and you open yourself up to subsidiary questions who cares? and why bother? so, how do we answer? so what in this regard in this context? why does it matter to debunk this myth? why? that's comments, marissa. can't get away but like the
focus on the journalists and this whole story takes away from what happened like with the scandal in the first place in the sense that i think most people like most everyday people i couldn't even explain to you like the details of like why water it was even bad, you know, it was like, oh they did something wrong, but i don't think most people can really explain it and that way that they're they're more like, oh is the story of these great journalists and they're not even paying attention to like what nixon or anybody even did wrong at that point which is like the so what like that's the problem is that the attention is taken away from like the wrongdoings that have happened which means that they could happen again because nobody really took in or cared the first time that it happened because they were distracted by this other story fair point other thoughts in answering the so what question? fernanda, thank you. i'd say that maybe like not to always think that less is more
so that it might be worth our while to go into the complexities of watergate to actually understand what we consider the biggest political scandal in our country. so maybe that's a lesson we can take away from this. okay point. to marissa's point i would argue that the myth is a distortion of history. and at misinterprets the dynamics that really combine to down a corrupt presidency. it glasses over that. focuses on media it's a media-centric interpretation. and that in the watergate context is a distortion. and related to that. it overstates the media's capacity to exert exert decisive influences. we tend to believe that the news media are powerful agents and they are but that power tends to
be episodic. it's not constant. it's not always there. it's not a linear effect cause and effect kind of equation here and another reason why is that this myth? has eden mentioned a few moments ago? essentially has worked its way into textbooks. america newsrooms to reporting about the scandal it is. if not everywhere not hard to find. not far not hard to come across. any additions to the three points here anyone want to add a another bullet point? as to why it matters to debunk this clue please i think one potential. point would be that at a time like now. where trust and faith in federal
government is like really really low. it's important to point out when the government kind of succeeds and you know clean cleansing itself of corruption when it succeeds and doing what it's supposed to do in terms of, you know, uncovering these horrible deeds. good point. yeah, i mean in this case you can argue that government stepped up and if not cleansed itself it exposed the wrongdoing to the extent that. the top guy clearly committing obstruction of justice had to leave had to leave the office. in an unprecedented fash fair point how about another so what that? this interpretation this dominant narrative. defies logic defies logic because journalists don't have
subpoena power. they're not compelling testimony as federal investigators as the fbi. as house and senate investigative panels can do compel testimony. issue subpoenas so logically, does this dominant narrative hold together? i would argue. that it does not. in closing folks. i want to mention that there are. spin-off myths from the dominant narrative of watergate the heroic journalist myth is not the only media driven myth related to this topic. there are what i call subsidiary myths. and one of the most tenacious subsidiary myths is that the film all the president's men? which glamorized journalists which was media centric and focused on the exploits of two
young reporters played by two actors at peak of their career. projected such a glamor such a golden glow around journalism that journalism education programs colleges and universities surged in the aftermath of watergate in the aftermath of all the president's men. everybody supposedly wanted to be like woodward and bernstein everybody wanted a piece of this golden glow that enveloped or seemed to envelop journalism and journalism education in the 1970s. it has been claimed that journalism schools. became overcrowded with students aspiring to be the next woodward and bernstein. and woodward and bernstein have been referred to as the muck raking duo. that launched a million journalism majors sounds logical cause and effect there is no
evidence to support such claims. research over the years have has demonstrated that this is indeed. a myth a subsidiary myth of watergate enrollments in journalism programs in the united states did not surge because woodward bernstein watergate and all the president's men. this surgeon enrollment was true, but it had begun years earlier. it had begun years earlier. it predated watergate. and beginning in late 1960s and into the early 1970s this surge was driven in large measure not exclusively, but in large measure. by female students entering journalism and communication programs. at us colleges and universities another factor was that journalism then was seen as an applied. fuel to study that you could get a job after graduating by majoring in journalism and college.
data compiled and reported in the 1980s found that the boom in journalism enrollments was well underway five years before the watergate break-in in 1972. max mccombs a communication scholar a veteran communication scholar and author of a study on this topic has written that it is in frequently and wrongly asserted that investigative reporting by woodward and bernstein provided a popular role model for students. that led to a boom in journalism school enrollments the data he wrote. reveal that enrollments had already doubled. between 1976 and 1972 so the tenacity of this subsidiary myth is easily understood like the dominant narrative. like the dominant narrative it exists because in persists because it seems logical. could have happened.
host: "washington journal" continues. host: on the 50th anniversary of the watergate break-in, two individuals who played a key role in the prosecution and defense teams of watergate. jill wine-banks, a former watergate assistant special prosecutor and the new book in the -- and geoff shepard , deputy to the lead counsel and also the other of a new book. thank you for the time. remind us where you
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