Reporting That Changed the Country

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” These are the words of philosopher George Santayana. They are the lesson from the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. The Watergate scandal gave politicians valuable lessons. But, the most important teachings came from the reporters who exposed political fraud.

Journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward worked without rest, guided by their editor, Benjamin Bradlee. They uncovered one of the biggest political scandals in history.

In 1972 five men broke into the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., and attempted to steal files and install wire taps. These men wanted to influence the reelection of then President Richard Nixon. They were caught and brought to court. Woodward was assigned to cover their court case. This case started it all as Bradlee asked Bernstein to work with Woodward. The pair of journalists balanced each other both as reporters and as people.

Over the next two years they stayed true to their duty as journalists. Bradlee trusted his journalists. But he also made sure their sources were reliable. All three men were faithful to reporting facts and the truth. They only wrote things they could prove with two or more sources. All told, their actions changed the way Americans see their presidents.

Looking back at these events, it’s easy to see how different things could have been. If Woodward and Bernstein had listened to their critics and stopped exploring Watergate, this country could be a different place. Their work saved the First Amendment rights of free speech and free press. People might not trust the news without these reporters. The public could have lost trust if they had reported facts without proof. Their work also saved the role of newspapers as guardians and watchdogs. Without their work, corrupt politicians could continue to commit crimes without anyone knowing.

The gravity of their work is caught by Bradlee in the film “All the President’s Men.” Near the end of the film Bradlee says to his two reporters, “Not that there’s a lot riding on this. Only the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press and maybe the future of our democracy.” This marks the value of these journalists’ work. It’s safe to say that their promise to journalistic ethics and standards help saved American rights.

These men risked their careers — and their lives — to expose the truth. All writers can learn from their lessons of loyalty to thoughtful, ethical and factual writing. Beyond journalism, there are lessons for all professionals. These journalists showed what it means to believe in something. They held themselves to high standards and didn’t quit in the face of danger.

These lessons clearly show in “All the President’s Men.” This film stars Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. These actors give viewers an inside look at the events that changed the nation and showed Americans the power of good reporting. The film is based on the book written by Woodward and Bernstein.

Viewers know the film is true because the story comes directly from Woodward and Bernstein. With this first-hand account, the film draws viewers into the story. They feel as if they’re part of the search. They follow the clues along with Woodward and Bernstein. It’s an up-close and thrilling look at the time when journalism changed American politics for the better. The time when brave journalists changed American politics forever.


Scene from All the President’s Men.