September 16, 2019

Woodward/Bernstein still timely today - Daily Leader Extra : Editorials

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Woodward/Bernstein still timely today

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Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2019 3:35 pm

Legendary reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein spoke on Tuesday night in Sioux Falls, and we continue to be impressed by their relentless commitment to great journalism.

Woodward and Bernstein are best known for their work as young reporters for the Washington Post, where they took a minor story on an office break-in at the Watergate complex and followed it through to exposing one of the biggest corruptions in U.S. history and essentially forcing the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

The two men appeared at Augustana University's Boe Forum on Public Affairs, which was established to bring extraordinary speakers to South Dakota to address events and issues of current national or international significance. The long list of distinguished speakers includes Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, George H.W. Bush, Sandra Day O'Connor and Condoleezza Rice.

While the details of the uncovering of facts and reporting of Watergate were of key interest to the audience, Bernstein emphasized the point of the whole Watergate scandal was that a U.S. president set forth a series of efforts to destroy the process for our country to elect its president.

In his view, the scandalous effort took five forms: 1) wiretapping protesters with the intention to destroy them, 2) wiretapping reporters for the same purpose, 3) destroying the Democratic Party, which is what the break-in was about, 4) declaring war on the justice system, which was what the cover-up was about, and 5) declaring war on history to repair Nixon's reputation.

Woodward has written 19 books in his career -- all national bestsellers -- and 13 of them made #1 on the bestseller list. His most recent is "FEAR: Trump in the White House."

Woodward said Nixon tried to turn the tables on the reporters with a systematic effort to discredit them, with the White House labeling them liars, calling the publisher of the Post to have them fired and other malicious threats. There are some parallels today, with Trump calling news coverage of his presidency "fake news" and branding journalists as "the enemy of the people."

Both Woodward and Bernstein pointed out that there is great journalism today, but that all media needs to be vigilant in truth-seeking and accurate reporting. Nothing less than our democracy depends on it.

-- Jon M. Hunter