One of the greatest investigative stories is still being discussed more than 40 years after it shocked the nation. This was the case Monday night on the Kalb Report, which opened its 21st season at the National Press Club. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the journalists behind bringing down the Nixon Administration, discussed with the moderator, Marvin Kalb, the investigative process that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
The discussion began with Woodward and Bernstein talking about being young reporters assigned the story to find out what was, “a criminal conspiracy,” according to Woodward. The focus quickly shifted to an important phone conversation Bernstein had with then-attorney general John Mitchell, who hung up the phone. That experience for Bernstein was a “chilling moment for a 28-year-old reporter.” “Mitchell felt so insulted,” Woodward remembered.
Woodward and Bernstein then discussed then-executive editor, Ben Bradlee, whose “politics was about the truth,” said Bernstein. Woodward said that nowadays there is “impatience and speed” regarding news stories on the Internet rather than digging deep into a story, and even said the news industry needs “more Ben Bradlee.”
In addition to discussing uncovering the Watergate Scandal, they talked about the tape recordings which included Nixon, who Bernstein labeled a “criminal president,” and referenced not only the recordings regarding Watergate, but also plans to break-into the Brookings Institution. Kalb added that while he was at CBS News, Nixon had people break into his office. Woodward called the recordings a “war against the press.” After discussing how then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger stood up to Nixon, Woodward offered the following insight: “Others who hate you don’t win unless you hate them.”
Near the end of the discussion, the two journalists shifted to what the state of journalism is today. “There is not enough good journalism done today,” said Bernstein.
“The key [for] new media [is the] old legwork,” he said. “Good reporting is the best attainable version of the truth.” Bernstein continued by suggesting that instead of good stories, people are looking for, “ideological ammunition.”
Finally, Kalb asked Woodward and Bernstein advice they would give to aspiring journalists. “Be a good listener,” said Bernstein. “Being a journalist is the greatest job in the world, said Woodward.
After the show, there was a Question and Answer session involving the audience. The questions ranged from their Watergate reporting to today’s media.
The Kalb Report is funded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and strives to explore current issues in journalism.