Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Watergate And Factional Journalism

At Salon, Jefferson Morley reviews Max Holland's Leak:

Portraying [Mark] Felt/Deep Throat as a factional power player, not a high-minded voice of truth, is a public service. But Holland goes too far in deprecating the accomplishments of Woodward and Carl Bernstein. He develops the argument first made by Edward Jay Epstein that the Post got too much credit for exposing the criminal conspiracy emanating from Nixon’s White House.

“Contrary to widely held perception that the Post uncovered Watergate,” Holland writes, “the newspaper essentially tracked the progress of the FBI’s investigation with a time delay ranging from weeks to days, and published elements of the prosecutor’s case well in advance of the trial.” From the leisurely perspective of a historian that may be convincing. For working journalists, the publication of a story days or weeks in advance of the government is the whole point.

Nevertheless, “All the President’s Men” embellished Woodward’s and Bernstein’s fine job to an act of moral heroism. The film reassured viewers that the good guys could win with the help of a wise man on the inside. Any young person who is inspired to do journalism by “All the President’s Men” should also read Leak. The romantic myth of journalism is dead and that’s a good thing.

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