Editorial: Lessons from Woodward and Bernstein

In 1976, you could smoke a cigarette anywhere.
Last weekend I watched a classic movie that I hadn’t seen since I was required to watch it for a college journalism class in the mid 1990’s.

“All the President’s Men”.
It starred Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the Washington Post reporters that cracked the Watergate Scandal of the Nixon administration in the early ‘70’s.
Our professor had 2 VHS copies of the movie that we passed around, or we could go rent it at Blockbuster or Video Time if we couldn’t wait.
It’s worth a watch as an historically important look inside the corruption and deeply manipulated political process, but what really intrigued me is how drastically the world has changed in 45 years.
In 1976, you could smoke a cigarette anywhere.
At work.
On the bus.
In a taxi.
Heck, Dustin Hoffman’s character nonchalantly fired a lung dart, without asking permission, in the living room of a subject they were interviewing!
Sometimes their investigation would lead to a new name they hadn’t heard.
No problem. They had the phone books of every major metropolitan area in their office. All they had to do was scroll through those, and start calling matches.
By calling, I mean actually calling their home phones.
And people answered!
Even in the middle of the night.
What’s even crazier, is that you couldn’t get away from these guys.
Today, we complain about telemarketers constantly calling about extending our car’s warranties.
It’s annoying, and we’ve learned to not answer calls that don’t pop up as contacts, or hang up once you know it’s a robot.
That wasn’t an option if Woodward and Bernstein wanted to question you.
They would come knocking on your door if you started screening their calls.
Back then, you needed a pocketful of dimes at all times, because if you had to make a very private call, you’d step outside and use the pay phone.
When they needed to dig deep into some old records or files, they couldn’t google them or look online.
Nope, they grabbed their jackets and hopped in a cab to go to the most reliable source of information.
The library.
You could even smoke there!
They worked their butts off.
They took a lot of criticism and even endured threats.
They were working with what we would consider primitive technology.
They wore pants that were so tight in the wrong places.
And in the end, they uncovered one of the country’s most incredible scandals ever.
In a way that we can’t even imagine today.

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