SARAH ALFAHAM / The Working Press
Just like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Anthony Mirones had a hunch.
An investigative journalist for WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, Mirones kept trying to figure out why nearby creeks showed no signs of life. He wasn’t sure where the story would lead, but he “kept knocking on doors.”
Eventually, he learned that the airport had been draining pollution into the streams.
Mirones was one of more than 750 people who packed into a room Saturday to hear the legendary reporters talk about the hunch they pursued 35 years ago. It led a president to resign.
“It was interesting to see Woodward and Bernstein admit that they didn’t know where the story was going, and that they persisted,” Mirones said.
Woodward, who today is an editor at The Washington Post, and Bernstein, who recently wrote a book about Hillary Rodham Clinton, answered questions about their reporting on the 1972 break-in at Democratic Party offices at the Watergate hotel. They eventually traced the crime to associates of President Nixon.
Woodward and Bernstein also talked about “All the President’s Men,” the 1976 movie about the Watergate investigation and journalism in general.
Bernstein said that it took a long time for him and Woodward to connect the dots, and that they might not have had the same success had the break-in happened today.
“The two driving forces in journalism today is lots of speed and impatience. Good reporting is the opposite. It’s a slow and patient job,” Bernstein said.
Woodward added that taking it slow can be helpful on some stories.
“If you let people talk and you listen to them, the stories will go places you never would have expected,” Woodward said.
The session was the highlight of the day, but journalists were disappointed when the audio failed about halfway through the discussion. Those not lucky enough to get a seat in the packed ballroom stood in the back of the room or sat on the floor.
Joining Woodward and Bernstein on stage were Ben Bradlee, the Post executive editor who oversaw the Watergate coverage; Scott Armstrong, an investigator on the Senate Watergate Committee; Alicia Shepard, who recently wrote “Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate;” and journalist Daniel Schorr, who covered Watergate for CBS and is now a news analyst for NPR.
Bob Schieffer of CBS News moderated the discussion.
Schorr said what Woodward and Bernstein did changed the face of journalism. He called it the “Watergate syndrome” and said that afterward, people started to question authority more.
“We should not assume that when the presidents or the press secretaries speak, they are saying the truth. And we had that example,” Schorr said. “It’s really about investigative reporting.”
Becky Dickerson, publisher for The Community Current Newspaper in St. John, Wash., said she would not have missed the session for anything.
“I picked this workshop to attend because it seems ridiculous growing up in the 70s during Watergate, to watch “All the President’s Men” in college and not take this opportunity to hear from them first hand,” she said.
At the end of the workshop, after a standing ovation from the audience, Woodward and Bernstein were given two potted plants. During their reporting, Woodward moved a potted plant to his balcony to signal “Deep Throat,” his source during the Watergate investigation, that he wanted to meet.