Written by Emma Jones
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel with a group from Student Publications to Washington D.C. for a national collegiate publications conference. And yeah, it was fun to submit The Bison in the design competition and get as many newspaper themed-buttons for my lanyard as I could fit on it, but the real reason we were there was for the keynote speakers of the event: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
Those names might not mean much to students who are my age, but I assure you that these men are like the Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff of the journalism world. (Yeah, they’re a big deal.) Woodward and Bernstein were The Washington Post reporters who covered the Watergate scandal 50 years ago, doing much of the original news reporting that led to numerous government investigations and the eventual resignation of then-President Richard Nixon. Their coverage is considered one of the greatest reporting efforts of all time.
So you can imagine what it was like for thousands of college journalists to be gathered at this conference to hear this duo speak; it felt almost like a concert. People were shoving their way in to get good seats. When Woodward and Bernstein took the stage, they were met with a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd. Everyone had their phones out to take a picture. The only thing missing was some choreography and a mosh pit.
Their speech was casual, as they reflected on their Watergate coverage, but sprinkled throughout were drops of journalistic wisdom like, “People want to tell the truth more often than not,” and “Journalism is the best obtainable version of the truth.” Things that, for you, might not seem that interesting or valuable, but are a reminder for student journalists like me of the importance of the coverage that these men did.
Woodward and Bernstein spoke truth to power. Their story brought insight into an issue that would lead to distrust in the election process and presidential power as it was then known to the American public. What happened with the Watergate scandal was corrupted and bad; it was good that these reporters were willing to face threats from powerful figures and put their time into developing a story that helped expose this corruption to the people who needed to realize it.
Another bit of wisdom that the duo shared to us student journalists was to “beware the demon pomposity.” Imagine being 28 or 29 years old and your journalistic coverage being called some of the best that’s ever been done — it was a conscious effort on their part to stay humble and continue digging for the truth as journalists. This can be applied to any sort of work; it is okay to be proud, but do not become self-absorbed with what you’ve done.
Getting to hear journalism greats like these men served as a reminder of why I love this job and what I get to do. Though news coverage on Harding’s campus is not quite as high profile as Watergate might have been, it is important to you. To this community, it is important to bring truth and to show the good and the bad and to help bring knowledge of what other people are doing and saying — things that you might have never known had you not picked up The Bison. So thank you for reading.