By Hannah Shaffer
The movie “All The President’s Men” came out in 1976, two years after the book by the same name was released by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. The movie depicts the two journalists who investigated the Watergate scandal throughout Nixon’s presidency.
Bernstein and Woodward, originally rivals, worked together to solve the mystery of the botched burglary of the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex. The rivals used leaks from a source nicknamed Deep Throat to follow the links up to a White House staff member.
Despite threats to their safety, Bernstein and Woodward found ways to talk to their sources and to expose the Watergate scandal, ultimately leading to President Nixon’s resignation.
Q&A with Fleischaker/Greene Scholars presented with “All the President’s Men” movie at WKU’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting on Oct. 11.
This is one of the most important movies that journalism students could watch because although it is a little outdated it shows the ways to report using anonymous sources as well as the importance of following the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. This movie shows how the reporters pursued a story in accordance with the code of ethics.
“Seek truth and report it.”
Bernstein and Woodward, though workplace rivals, sought to find the truth behind the scandal. In doing so, they sought to find out who was behind the botched burglary and they sought to make it public knowledge. They knew it was important for the public to know the truth and that it was their job as journalists to find it.
“Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.”
This aspect to the code of ethics is crucial in this situation. If Bernstein and Woodward had promised anonymity and failed to follow through with their sources, people could have gotten hurt. There were countless threats to the safety of the two reporters, and the sources would be more likely to be put in a position where they could be hurt if they were discovered as the reporters’ sources.
“Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.”
This aspect of the code of ethics is crucial as well. In this situation, the public’s need to know about the Watergate break in — and potential corruption in the White House — was more important than the need for privacy of the people involved. President Richard Nixon and his chief of staff, among others involved, were public officials who sought power and influence over the people of the United States of America. Therefore, the public’s need to know justified the use of anonymous sources and the aggressive reporting into the break-in.