Reflective Midterm Blog Post

All the President’s Men portrays many aspects of modern day journalism, despite being a story from the 1970’s. The story of the burglary of the Democratic Party headquarters which is housed at the Watergate apartment complex, follows these two young, determined reporters set out to research more on the questionable robbery.

Throughout the film’s entirety, countless journalistic methods are exhibited by Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman); the reporters from the Washington Post.

In journalism there is what is called the “Paul Williams Way” or approach to investigative reporting. Woodward and Bernstein utilize this method throughout the movie and investigation.

The first step of the “Williams Way” includes conceiving the investigation and in order to create an investigation it requires the reporter to be in tune or informed with the current climate.

Woodward and Bernstein were 100% “in the loop” and that is a reason they poured so much effort into the Watergate case in the first place. The pair were on the search for facts and leads, and they often went to extreme heights to get them.

From here the pair had to decide how realistic obtaining the actually story information was and if it was even a possibility. This is known as the feasibility of the story, and as unfeasible this story may have seemed Woodward and Bernstein accomplished the task at hand.

There were so many holes to jump through and reports to sift through. The time required to complete this story was mind-boggling but the impact that a story like this could have made is endless.

This piece required much investment from all parties but the investment proved to be worth it. The time spent abiding by the Paul Williams Way by Woodward and Bernstein, was time well spent.

Throughout the entire investigation and report, the 2 young bucks had to use primary and secondary sources to improve their credibility.

Some primary sources used to the pair’s advantage were the money receipts and various documents used to help define leads.

Primary sources made up much of the search for the duo and face to face interaction was an avenue in which they used to find information. It paid off as Woodward and Bernstein kept pressing the issue and digging for valuable information from these sources, and ultimately getting what they needed to further their story.

The “people trails” played a huge part in this story and developed the information on a whole new level. Specifically the whistleblower in this twisted web of details, who was referred to as Deep Throat added a key element to this investigation.

He maintained anonymity throughout the entire investigative process and was always discreet when meeting with Woodward. That is exactly what a whistleblower does though. They expose wrongdoing or corruption and typically remain unidentifiable while doing it.

Investigating the executive branch of government is a part of investgative journalism, and the work is typically hard to collect. The work that goes into executive branch reporting is immense and the time required is vast.

Woodward and Bernstein were told to abide by an executive branch staple and “follow the money” which often points to big spending among government agencies or individuals. The two men did just that and it paid off.

The ethical side of this investigation may have been in question at times but all in all, the two men did a good job. They most certainly kept the pressure on different sources and outlets of information but for the most part they did this the right way. With a sense of respect and dignity.

Ethical behavior is a crucial part of reporting. If unethical treatment is a normal part of an individual’s repertoire then he or she is going to consistently be looked down upon in a negative light. Woodward and Bernstein had a lot at stake in this case and they executed very well.

This entire incident will forever etch its place in American history. The Watergate scandal forever changed the political realm of the United States government.

Never before had a president willingly resigned from office and this landmark investigation made former President Nixon do just that. For investigative reporting it showed the nation and the occupation that they could make a real, sizable footprint in the American news scene. It proved that journalists can be game changers and trail blazers.

Various obstacles were in the way of Woodward and Bernstein with the main being, in my opinion, the lack of information access. Accessing vital information to shift the story’s angle in the 1970’s was tough. Going about finding information was a much more in depth task and obstacle to the reporters.

To keep the story afloat and going, it took persistence, perseverance, and the ability to expect defeat in some aspects of creation process. Being told no was something these two had to become accustomed to. They could not be held back by one source being unwilling to help when they had plenty of others at their disposal.

“Woodstein” developed an article called “Nixon was worse than we thought” and in this piece the pair dived deeper into the post scandal environment. In this article the pair included direct sources and quotes from personnel directly associated with the Nixon administration and former President Nixon himself.

These types of sources only add to the “rawness” and depth of a story of this magnitude. Getting quotes from Nixon himself that can then be used to prove the point that “Woodstein” is trying to make tells the story better than any material the Washington Post could come up with.

The main thing I learned about the relationship between an editor and a reporter all boils down to first believing in the reporter and thinking that he or she can accomplish the story at hand.

The Washington Post was reluctant at first to assign and release a story of this magnitude to such young reporters. But frankly, I do not think they had a choice. Having a group of reporters willing to be bold and do a story like this spoke volumes on these two journalists at the time.

Editors have to trust their reporters with the big time stories and material, and reporters must trust that their editors are making the right decision when distributing duties and tasks.

From this movie I learned fairly simple, yet telling principles. First, I learned to go with my gut and follow what my intuition might be telling me. I feel like journalists have too often acquire this same mindset.

It is paramount to find a story where there seems to be a story that is worth telling.

The second lesson that I learned is to not be afraid to chase the headline or topic that has not yet been covered. Tapping into a pool of nearly untouched topics is not easy, but it can be what separates the good journalists from the great journalists. Chasing after the hard to obtain or uncomfortable to cover bit of information is what makes investigative journalism what it truly is.

Outside of Woodward and Bernstein, three characters that played a significant role in this film were Bradlee, Deep Throat, and the bookkeeper for Sloan.

Bradlee was never easy on the two journalists, but it was under his guidance and supervision that the two exceled. Some of the pair’s success can fall back to Bradlee as the main editor of the Washington Post.

Deep Throat’s significance falls upon the fact that he gave Woodward the vital Information that could be used to further progress the case. Without him, even in his privacy, it is safe to assume Woodward would not have been nearly as successful.

The third character of extreme significance is the bookkeeper. The bookkeeper was Bernstein’s one way ticket to the juicy details of this story. Without Bernstein continuing to push her, she may have never gave out vital information, and who knows where the story could have ended up.

If I were to be able to pick the brain of Woodward and Bernstein and ask them anything, my question would actually be a simple yet telling one. I would ask the pair, “Looking back, did it ever or does it now finally click with you two that you pioneered what is quite possibly the most groundbreaking investigative report in U.S. history?”

Getting to hear their answer would be astounding, given that the Watergate scandal ultimately made the President of the United States resign from his position. Something that had never happened before.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were the reason that Richard Nixon will forever be a memorable part of the American history timeline, unfortunately not for the good though but rather the worse.

Word Count: 1,454

On my honor, I have watched “All the President’s Men” in its entirety.

Digital Media Student at Liberty University