Monday, June 18, 2007

35 years after Watergate

It's that time again, as for 35 years now I've been noting the significance of June 17-18, the anniversaries of the break-in at the Watergate complex, at 2 am on the 17th, and the first stories about it in the Washington Post.

I wrote columns in the Miami Herald, once for the 20th anniversary and one for the 30th anniversary of Nixon's resignation, about being at the Post when all this happened.

Today some new columns marking the anniversary, from Joe Strupp at Editor & Publisher: Watergate's 35th Anniversary: Would That Story Have Been Broken Today?, and from Woodstein biographer Alicia Shepard on the Poynter site: The Myth of Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein .

From Strupp:
...the majority of today's newspaper reporting is having to be limited in some cases -- both due to staffing cuts and new 24/7 demands. The Watergate anniversary is a good reminder of the need for that vital part of newspapers, watchdog news, not to be forgotten.

Both columns emphasize that it wasn't just W & B, or any spectacular 'gotcha' that made the story, but there's a telling line in Shepard's column that reminds us that 35 years is a long time to remember why it mattered: is a much better story to romanticize Woodward, now 64, and Bernstein, 63, and turn them into David-like characters who took down the nation's Goliath with a slingshot fashioned out of a newspaper. That myth was cemented after Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman -- the equivalent today of Brad Pitt and George Clooney -- portrayed Woodward and Bernstein in the 1976 classic movie "All the President's Men."



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