Those who gave information to the reporters did so under much fear. As workers for a corrupt government scandal, the government could punish them for betrayal. If they got caught spilling information, no one could protect them. What the government would do to them would be branded as legal. Many believe that such political scandals happen today in this country. It’s easy to judge those who may have been involved. Many forget that those who get into such things, as in the film, often feel trapped. They may have been good people at first. Then, evil people pressured them into a crime. After that, their careers, money or even their families are at risk if they expose their actions.
Those who knew of the scandal knew the government would deny any truth that leaked out. “I can understand you being afraid,” Bernstein said to a woman he interviewed, “There’s a lot of people in the committee just like you who want to tell the truth. But some people wouldn’t listen.”
The two reporters searched hard for the truth. They got turned down on their requests to interview again and again. It was difficult, but they made sure they could get multiple confirmations for their facts. They often went through long lists of names. Throughout the vast city of Washington, D.C., they would search for people who would talk. The people they interviewed couldn’t tell them much. Over the course of the film, they got good at getting confirmations indirectly. They had to do it to protect their sources.
Early in their work on the story, Woodward got an informant codenamed “Deep Throat.” Many years after the story came out, Deep Throat’s identity became known. He worked high up in the FBI, and that’s how he got information. In a dark, empty parking garage, Woodward would meet Deep Throat to ask questions. They met early in the morning. Deep Throat wouldn’t give much information to Woodward. If Deep Throat said too much, he could compromise his secret identity. Instead, he confirmed what Woodward gave him. “In a conspiracy like this,” Deep Throat once said to Woodward, “you build from the outer edges in. You go step by step.”
Before they wrote their conclusion story, they knew people watched them. To connect each other’s final pieces of the puzzle, the two reporters had to be secret. Woodward played music loud in Bernstein’s apartment. This assured that no one could hear what the men did. The two reporters took turns typing their new facts on a typewriter. After that, they met their editor, Ben Bradlee, late at night. They asked to talk to him outside his house, due to “electronic surveillance.”
The two reporters shared the astounding scope of what they discovered. In reaction, Bradlee said, “You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home. Get a nice hot bath. Rest up: 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear.”
Bradlee sent them to the Washington Post newsroom early in the morning. That same day, former President Nixon got sworn into his second term. In the film, the ceremony played on TV while the reporters typed up their articles on the story. It showed how well those reporters knew that the other media were wrong about former President Nixon. They exposed the facts about who was involved and where the money went. The Watergate burglary was a small part of a bigger agenda. Former President Richard Nixon ran a secret operation to sabotage the Democratic candidates. That was the Watergate Scandal. As many know, these articles later led to former President Nixon’s resignation.
The power of the press, as shown in the film, can overthrow power set in the wrong hands. Ben Bradlee, Bernstein and Woodward’s executive editor, said of their articles, “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.” Free speech, enshrined in the United States Constitution, allows the press to keep the government in check. Without the First Amendment, Bernstein and Woodward could not have shared the truth.
Freedom of speech does not mean that the truth always wins. As in Woodward and Bernstein’s story, people will always need to fight for it. But, with the First Amendment, once the truth is found, it can spread and liberate people.
If you love the freedom that comes from truth, do not miss out on “All the President’s Men.” The film takes the viewer on a journey with two brave, unlikely heroes. They freed the country by challenging the common narrative. It will inspire you to live more like they did.