Woodward and Bernstein’s appearance at FAU sells out the Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium


Jillian Melero

Woodward and Bernstein on Politics, Abuse of Power, and the Responsibilities of the Media and the Audience to look for “the Best Obtainable Version of the Truth.”

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Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward and Timothy Naftali shared the stage Wednesday, Feb. 19 to talk about Woodward and Bernstein’s investigative reporting for Watergate.
Photo by Max Jackson


On Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., renowned journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein spoke in the Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium as part of a series on the American Presidency.

They spoke to an estimated audience of 2,400 people. The majority of the audience were members of the surrounding communities, along with FAU students and faculty, local press, and faculty from nearby schools such as Palm Beach Community College.

Woodward and Bernstein are best known for their investigative reporting on the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration in 1972 — a scandal which led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

Their reporting on the story won them each a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1973.

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Bernstein is currently a writer for Vanity Fair magazine. His most recent book is “A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Woodward is an associate editor for The Washington Post and has written 16 non-fiction national best sellers. His most recent book, “The Price of Politics,” focuses on conflicts within the White House between 2009 and 2012.

The lecture was moderated by Dr. Timothy Naftali, former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.

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During Wednesday’s event “Inside the White House from Nixon to Obama,” the two men offered insights into the political machinations occurring in the White House over the last few decades and the importance of media coverage as a window into our government.

To preface the discussion, Bernstein commented on what makes the United States a successful democracy.

“First of all, we don’t have an Official Secrets Act like they do in the UK.”

The Official Secrets Act is the shorthand term for legislation which provides protection of state secrets and information related to national security. The Official Secrets Act is used in the UK, Ireland, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia.

Bernstein followed this statement by referencing the First Amendment, saying our constitutional rights of free speech and free press are the keys to our successful democracy.

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As moderator, Naftali focused much of the lecture on the Nixon era and the implications and repercussions of the Watergate scandal.

The bigger context of this focus was the potential for abuse of power within high ranking offices.

Bernstein referred to Nixon’s administration several times as a “criminal presidency.”

This also bolstered the necessity of a well-informed public in order to provide the checks and balances against such potential abuse.

[quote_box author=”-Bob Woodward ” profession=””]“When the government is hidden, it’s the job of journalists, congress and citizens to figure it out and bring it to light.” [/quote_box]

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This issue ties into many of today’s headlines, such as the story of Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency.

“Is Snowden a hero or a villain?” one member of the audience questioned.

Without siding one way or the other, Bernstein responded:

“Snowden’s actions have produced an awareness about the scope of the NSA. This is necessary and helpful to start this debate.”

Bernstein went on to say that there has been no hard evidence to say that the NSA has committed any abuse of power, and there has been no proof of intrusion upon private U.S. citizens.

Bernstein also offered this context to the story.

“We live in an age of terrorism. Much of what the NSA does is necessary, but we should know what it is they do.”

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The Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium was full with students, faculty and members of the local community for the forum on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 19.
Photo by Max Jackson

Much of the conversation had to do with the cynicism toward issues within the media today, including the larger media outlets, the role of journalists and even the responsibilities of citizens as an audience.

The discussion, many times, came back to the importance of in-depth reporting. Not just media coverage of a story, not just repeating opinions or partisan rhetoric, but digging up information, finding facts, and presenting those facts and information in context — getting the story from all sides.

Woodward quoted one of his colleagues Bob Kaiser, former senior correspondent and associate editor of The Washington Post.

“Bob used to say ‘It’s all about the reporting. It’s all about the information. Without the information, you’re just pontificating.’”

Woodward went on to say that many of the issues within media coverage today have to do with the lack of research.

“There’s a rush to conclusions, a rush to judgment, and people are not doing the work.”

Bernstein added that it was also an institutional crisis among the three or four major networks, stating that their focus is on quarterly profits when they should be funding real reporting.

Bernstein commented that in most cases, current media programming has less to do with reporting information and more to do with partisan and ideological rhetoric. The idea is that most audiences tune in to have their own opinions validated, rather than listening to facts or taking in other viewpoints.

Woodward said, “We can’t blame the audience that the numbers aren’t there, but there is a feeling of numbness, a feeling of not being able to do anything.”

However, both men are still optimistic about the future of journalism and the media.

“Great reporting is always done in spite of management,” joked Woodward.

[quote_center]“There is great reporting still happening,” said Bernstein “do yourselves a favor and look up the Polk Memorial Awards and you will see some examples of great reporting.”[/quote_center]