WASHINGTON (3/20/12)--Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose reporting helped uncover the Watergate scandal, suggested the stories they published back then might not have the same historic impact today.
The bombshell revelations of the time helped trigger a chain of events that eventually ended in the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and the arrest and conviction of former White House staff members, and other government officials.
But the two journalists, in an appearance before the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference here in t
Journalists Bob Woodward (background) and Carl Bernstein (foreground), whose reporting helped uncover the Watergate scandal, suggested the scandal, which helped trigger a chain of events that eventually ended in the resignation of President Richard Nixon, may not have had the same impact on Congress, the media, or the average citizen, if it happened today. (CUNA Photo)
he Washington Convention Center, said they are not convinced that today the present Congress, the media, and the average citizen would react the same way.
"Back then, the system worked," Woodward said. "People did everything in a systematic way." He noted the congressional Judiciary Committees at the time voted unanimously to investigate the alleged misconduct detailed in their stories. "Today, you see the Judiciary Committees totally polarized," he added.
"Also, there is a totally different media atmosphere today," Bernstein told the CUNA group. "There are not as many people of conscience. It's harder to find someone who will step out of the mold." Bernstein suggested the media may simply be reflecting its audience.
He said today most of those using the many platforms of information, such as the Internet, appear to be seeking data intended to reinforce their own interests and views.
Both Woodward and Bernstein emphasized they could not have written those celebrated news stories back then without the support of their newspaper, The Washington Post
. They especially emphasized the role of publisher Katherine Graham. "She was totally intellectually engaged," Bernstein said.
"She knew what we were doing, but she was not telling us what to do."
He said this was true even though the two now-renowned journalists were at the time members of the newspaper's less prestigious city staff, rather than its elite political reporting group.