Legendary journalists give perspective


Last weekend, three Trinitonian staff members set off to Washington D.C. only two hours after editors vacated the newsroom at 2:13 a.m. Student journalists from around the country flocked to the Grand Hyatt in downtown D.C. for MediaFest22, and as soon as we stepped inside the convention center, we were overtaken by young adults in business attire, journalism school recruiters and professionals on their way to teach sessions.

Among the mobs of people on Oct. 27 were two older gentlemen who, despite their humble demeanors, were about to walk onstage to a standing ovation. The crowd filled the entire ballroom, as well as two overflow rooms, to hear from two of the best journalists this country has seen: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Woodward and Bernstein were only in their 20s when they broke the Watergate story that ran on the Washington Post’s front page. Their series of investigations, which led to President Richard Nixon’s impeachment, won them a Pulitzer Prize and the fulfillment that any journalist could ever dream of.

But it started small. It started when Bernstein made his way over to the City Desk in the Post’s newsroom and snatched what, at the time, just seemed like a more interesting scoop than what he had going on that day. Woodward said the reason the two young journalists got to cover the beginnings of Watergate was that they were the only two who showed up to work the next day, which was a Sunday.

Soon enough, they realized they were uncovering what would become one of America’s largest political scandals.

The fact that there weren’t enough seats for all the young journalists to listen to Woodward and Bernstein speak is a testament to how much we can learn from them. The two cracked jokes and recalled outrageous anecdotes that are rare for a journalist to experience, but they also offered practical advice.

“When is the best time to knock on the door of a four-star General of the United States Military?” Woodward asked the audience. “Raise your hand if you would show up unannounced at 11 p.m.”

A small number of the audience raised their hands.

“Good,” he said. “You’ve got the job.”

As our small group of Trinitonian staff walked out after the talk, we were in disbelief. Those two legends both started their journalistic careers never imagining they would report on something so important. Never did they think a rogue story from the City Desk would teach them lessons on ethical reporting, juggling high-stake, anonymous sources or taking hits in the press by a presidential administration.

Politics are never stable, but the present climate is particularly ripe for corruption, fascism and other threats to the people. Both Woodward and Bernstein mentioned that right now is the closest they’ve ever returned to the Nixon era, and in fact, it may just be worse. This does nothing but start a fire in our chests as young journalists whose Watergate is sitting there at some newsroom desk, waiting for the right reporter to come along. Specifically, with next week’s midterm election, we keep in mind the integrity and dedication Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had as they changed the course of American history. If history indeed repeats itself, then so will the work of journalists who commit to its just documentation.