Watergate Myth: The Media Brought Down NixonRoundup: Talking About History
Mark Feldstein, in the American Journalism Review (Aug./Sept. 2004):
... Even conservative critics have accepted the notion that Woodward and Bernstein were instrumental in Nixon's downfall."[T]he Washington Post.. decided to make the Watergate break-in a major moral issue, a lead followed by the rest of the East Coast media," Paul Johnson wrote in his book"Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the Year 2000." This"Watergate witch-hunt," Johnson declared, was"run by liberals in the media..the first media Putsch in history."
Woodward dismisses both detractors and fans who contend that the media unseated a president."To say that the press brought down Nixon, that's horseshit," he says."The press always plays a role, whether by being passive or by being aggressive, but it's a mistake to overemphasize" the media's coverage.
But it was Woodward and Bernstein's best-selling book,"All the President's Men," that focused public attention on the young reporters, especially after Hollywood turned it into a blockbuster movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. The film immortalized the chain-smoking anonymous source called"Deep Throat," who met Woodward at night in deserted parking garages after first signaling for meetings with elaborate codes. Warner Brothers promoted the movie as"the story of the two young reporters who cracked the Watergate conspiracy...[and] solved the greatest detective story in American history. At times, it looked as if it might cost them their jobs, their reputations, perhaps even their lives."
Despite the hype, Woodward and Bernstein did not write a comprehensive history of Watergate, just a memoir of their own experience covering it."The fallacy in 'All the President's Men' is that..the movie is all from our point of view, so that it seems to be a story about us," Woodward acknowledges."But that's just one piece of what happened early in the process."
Still, as sociologist Michael Schudson wrote in his book"Watergate in American Memory," that's not the way the public sees it:"A mythology of the press in Watergate developed into a significant national myth, a story that independently carries on a memory of Watergate even as details about what Nixon did or did not do fade away. At its broadest, the myth of journalism in Watergate asserts that two young Washington Post reporters brought down the president of the United States. This is a myth of David and Goliath, of powerless individuals overturning an institution of overwhelming might. It is high noon in Washington, with two white-hatted young reporters at one end of the street and the black-hatted president at the other, protected by his minions. And the good guys win. The press, truth its only weapon, saves the day." ...
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Newly released interactive map shows images of destroyed monuments of Mosul
- How the Rise of the Post Office Explains American Innovation
- These Americans are reliving history and don’t mind repeating it
- Britain largest home is saved for the nation
- Shelter and the slums: capturing bleak Britain 50 years ago
- WSJ features an article by a conservative calling for the abolition of Black History Month
- Mary Beard, herself a bestselling author, wonders why more women historians aren't
- Princeton U. historian Imani Perry claims mistreatment in parking ticket arrest
- Retired historian George Dennison remains on the payroll at the U. of Montana while faculty are cut
- The Atlantic profiles exciting ways to teach history