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Pride, Politics & Policy: Woodward and Bernstein share stories about reporting on Watergate

By Andrea Ordonez and Chelsea Royal

Sitting at a table in The Washington Post's headquarters with his 10-cent cup of coffee, Carl Bernstein felt a chill down his spine when he realized the potential consequences of his and fellow journalist Bob Woodward's reporting.

"Oh my God! This president is going to get impeached," he said to Woodward sitting next to him with a quiet voice.   

40 years after reporting on a scandal that put their reputations and even lives at risk, Bernstein stood behind a lectern opposite of Woodward at Adam's Playhouse. The two shared stories on their efforts and obstacles they faced to exposing the Watergate scandal.

"We were always afraid that we would make a mistake, or when The New York Times would get there first," said Bernstein.

Through their reporting, Woodward and Bernstein changed the public's trusting perception of the government to one of skepticism. Showing the power of the press in the 1970s, the two inspired a new wave of reporters, and helped popularize investigative journalism.

However, Woodward and Bernstein expressed a stronger motive than just telling stories during their visit to the University on Tuesday. Unhappy with what Woodward called a "media culture driven by impatience and speed," they sought to remind the audience of how the journalism tenants that applied to them in the 1970s, fact-checking and meeting with sources, still apply to both journalists and news readers today.

"The Internet is not a magic lantern," said Woodward. "One of our efforts here is to talk about how we got information. We talked to people, human sources. We sat and tried to tap into their conscience."

Sophomore public relations major Mark Markowitz admires the dedication Woodward and Bernstein showed to getting the Watergate scandal out truthfully to the public.

"It really showed me that persistence and hard work can pay off," said Markowitz.

Aside from attracting members of the University's communications and political science communities, students and faculty from different fields found the lecture beneficial to them. 

Mike Leibowitz, a sophomore psychology major, found their ability to get honest information from sources remarkable.

"They were able to get honest information from people who weren't used to telling the truth," said Leibowitz. "It's really fascinating and [Sigmund] Freud would have a field day with it."

Meanwhile, for Andrea Libresco, an associate professor of teaching, literacy and leadership in the School of Education, the two reporters' work on revealing the Watergate scandal emphasizes how teachers should instruct their students to remain knowledgeable of what the American government is doing.

 "People who are journalists understand that their role is to search out the truth even if it goes to high places," said Libresco. "We as citizens, our job, and this is the education part, is to immerse ourselves in what goes on in a democracy and find out about the truth. If they're printing all this stuff and nobody is reading it, we're still in trouble as a democracy."

With the second presidential debate coming to Hofstra in October, Woodward and Bernstein reiterate student journalists' obligation to report truthfully to the community about the candidates and their stances.

"Sure you'll have limitations [as student journalists], but you'll also have more opportunities," said Bernstein. "You'll see some things that other reporters won't because you know the terrain."

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