I began my career as a journalist.
Many people just before my time were influenced to become a journalist based on the Watergate scandal, broken by the preeminent journalism duo Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. Their story is made impressively famous by the movie, “All the President’s Men,” starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein.
I’ve seen that movie dozens of times.
Like “The Sound of Music,” if I pass by it while flipping channels, I’ll stop and watch it to the end. And if, by chance, a pay channel is playing the whole thing, I’ll schedule it and save it to my DVR for a refresher course.
I left journalism in 2000, but journalism never left me. At my heart, I still believe in the Fourth Estate.
Journalism is not a lucrative career. Except for the bigwigs — like Woodward — or the television anchors, no one in journalism makes money. The money is not in journalism. It’s in punditry. Become a talking head, spouting some belief, some spin, some analysis of the facts, and you’ll become “famous” and well paid.
I’d so loved journalism and the exercise of exorcism. I’d try to extract those elements of bias and allow the reader to be transported to where I stood moments before typing this piece, whether it be at the scene of a crash or in a school board meeting or across the table from a neo-Nazi. My effort wasn’t to embellish, but to let the story tell itself.
Imagine my surprise when an icon of journalism stepped upon the world stage to say that the Obama Administration had threatened him. In particular, a White House official warned Woodward in an e-mail that the journalist would “regret” questioning Administration assertions on the origins of the sequestration.
If you’d seen “All the President’s Men,” you know a thing or two about threats and what this man went through to deliver the news. If anything, this man knows what a threat is.
The White House released the entire content of the e-mail from Gene Sperling, economic adviser to the President. In it, Sperling wrote, in part: “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest…. I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that POTUS [the President of the United States] asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues…”
I’ve highlighted what Mr. Woodward saw as a threat.
Now any given person with connected brain cells can see the tone of the e-mail. It’s not threatening (unless you work for Fox News or Donald Trump).
In one fell swoop, Mr. Woodward destroyed the last vestiges of journalistic integrity left in the world. With punditry ruling the airwaves, print publications dying and the only source of news being the moments where I can read between the lines of the bullshit that’s put out, the man who had once stood a giant showed his hand to the world.
He is a conservative.