Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 507-8911
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thirty-five years ago, two young reporters at The Washington Post changed journalism forever when they were assigned to cover an odd break-in at the Watergate Hotel. Subsequently, the reporters -- Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein -- launched an investigative probe that shook the country and eventually led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Today, their work serves as the textbook example for investigative reporting.
The reporting duo, along with their former Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee , spoke to about 700 journalists Saturday during the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Washington, D.C.
Joining Woodward and Bernstein for the discussion were Alicia C. Shepard, ombudsman for NPR and the author of “Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate;” Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst for National Public Radio; and Scott Armstrong, founder of the National Security Archive and an investigator on the Senate Watergate Committee. CBS news legend Bob Schieffer moderated the panel discussion.
Bernstein said despite threats from the government, the reporting team never doubted the work they were doing. But they also had no idea how big the story would get.
“I think we both knew it was going to go somewhere…we talked to the wives of the burglars, and found a connection to the CIA. But I really had no idea,” Bernstein said.
Woodward said the story that brought down Nixon was really a product of the Washington Post environment, and Bradlee’s management style.
“The Washington Post at that time was a terrific place to work because there was this terrific sense that you could go look anywhere (for a story),” Woodward said. “Even the White House.”
Bernstein gave credit to other press members, as well as the judicial system and political climate in the 1970s for bringing down a corrupt president.
“The huge difference today is that the system was really working during the Watergate years,” he said of the judicial process. “There was oversight in the system after we got the facts out there.”
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, visit www.spj.org.