Here’s a report from The Daily Beast‘s Howard Kurtz about last night’s “celebration not just of the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, but of journalism itself, of that brief moment when newspapering was hailed as a noble profession. So it was hardly surprising that The Washington Post, afflicted like most papers by declining circulation and shrinking staff, chose to put on a big bash at the Watergate office building, where the third-rate burglary took place in 1972.”
The following discussion between Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Charlie Rose was posted today by The World Today‘s Brendan Trembath:
Charlie Rose: “Suppose you had the internet and email and Twitter and all that we have today — would it have made covering Watergate different?”
Carl Bernstein: “Yeah — two things. One, I think that how the information would be received by readers and viewers would be very different because there’s so much inclination to look at information from a partisan or ideological source and use that information to reinforce pre-conceived prejudices and beliefs.
“So different in the way it’s received, but in terms of going out and getting the information, there’s no substitute whatsoever for the basic methodology. I mean I went to work when I was 16 at the Washington Star and that’s what you learn to do.
“And that’s what we still do. You talk to people and you know, one thing, you know this Charlie, one of the things that’s happened in journalism, a lot of is there’s a lot of manufactured controversy, when people throw a microphone in front of you or come in with a notebook and say, you know, tell me what this is all about and they leave the room. You learn things by sitting and listening and really learning and being open-minded.
“And the pre-conceived notion of a story that you have when you go out is never the same as what the story turns out to be and it’s because you’re there in person because…
Bob Woodward: “Well human sources are the key.
Carl Bernstein: “Human sources, that’s it.”
Bob Woodward: To answer your question, I think the internet could have helped with connections and so forth, but we talked to some journalism students at schools and they somehow think that the internet is a magic lantern and that you could just Google ‘secret fund’ and out would come all the data you need.
Bob Woodward: “And, you know, that’s just not true. The good stuff is not on the internet.”