Journalism has been an essential factor in making communication and information-sharing easy among people. It has been serving the purpose of delivering facts about anything of interest to the public. It is also the effective means used by the government in delivering essential news, policies, programs, and concerns, among others to the general public.
Consequently, it has bridged the gap between the government and the public. Through journalism, information about things and events has been delivered to other people despite physical and physiological hindrances. Furthermore, it increases the awareness and versatility of the public with regard to public issues.
In the early history of journalism, journalists are governed by law and are controlled by the government. Likewise, the contents of the materials are screened before it is released in the public. In addition, journalist is tasked to deliver only facts. However, through time, the extent of the influence of journalism has become encompassing.
The role of journalist in the society has also increased overtime. Remarkably, in the popularly known Watergate Scandal, a new concept of journalism emerged. A new responsibility has been formed by the brevity of the news reporters of the Washington Post. From merely presenting facts, a journalist has gone to the extent of delivering their own opinion on a particular issue. Above all, journalism has become a critic of public figures.
In the Watergate Scandal, journalism has been the influential means that moved the most powerful person to resign. Journalism was not merely focused on delivering news but has also adopted an investigative method of reporting. More importantly, journalism has eventually become a watchdog of any illegalities performed by the government officials. Hence, Watergate Scandal has remarkably become seminal in the development of journalism.
History of Journalism
The emergence of journalism can be traced back in the 1st century B. C. in ancient Rome through the Acta Diurna or Daily Events (Castro, n. p.). During that time, Julius Cesar ordered the posting of a handwritten news bulletins in the public spaces (Castro, n. p.). In the 750 A.D., China initiated the distribution of news bulletin (Castro, n. p.). Eventually, in the mid 15th century, the distribution of news and dissemination of information was made easier through the creation of movable metal type printer. Thus, it can be observed that in the early days, journalism was merely used by the government to disseminate information to the public.
As part of the development in journalism, the purpose, extent, content, and forms of journalism has changed. Newsletters and books were introduced in some other parts of the world. On one hand, opinions of several writers were now incorporated in journalism. Journalism was found as possible means of influencing others by laying down opinions on particular issues in print. Politicians, on the other hand, discovered the enormous potential of journalism in reaching their voters and in sharing their insights and platforms. It can be observed that the development in journalism in the early days was rapid.
Through the extent and influence of journalism in creating public policy and in widening public opinions, the threat was perceived. Besides, several laws possibly limiting the use of journalism have been enacted. One of the laws is libel. This was due to the danger and injury that may be created by irresponsible use of journalism. Remarkably, in America, the producer of the first newspaper, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, imprisoned and the publication was suppressed (Castro, n. p.). Several other publications were deterred from being published and many other journalist, news reporters, editors, and publishers were imprisoned. During those days, the struggle for press freedom was prevalent.
The Watergate Scandal
In the early days, politicians are being criticized and are associated with many scandals. The president, most especially, is very openly attacked by the media and the press because of the position and the public trust involved. In the American setting, the unforgettable attack by journalism on the president is the Watergate Scandal because it is the very first time in history that a president resigned from his powerful office.
The Watergate issue is primarily a political scandal, which challenged the Constitution. The Watergate scandal pertains to the breaking-in of President Nixon’s men at the offices of the Democratic National Committee and the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg (Berman 1329). The breaking-in was made in accordance with the order of President Nixon and his aide in order to search materials in the possession of party chairman Lawrence O’Brein (Berman 1329). Unfortunately, the men making the searches were arrested by the Washington Police Department (Berman 1329). The arrest of Nixon’s men, however, did not lead to his conviction.
Further investigations led to the discovery of the illegal activities in the Oval office where President Nixon and his aides meet. The conversations were recorded. The president and his aide also tried to cover up the Watergate mess by coordinating with CIA and FBI. Further investigation showed that money laundering was involved in funding the Watergate scandal. In order for these activities to remain undiscovered, the president and his aide paid the people having involvement for their silence.
However, a particular Deep Throat met with the young reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, of Washington Post and spilled the beans about the illegal activities of the President (Kobrak 71). The courageous revelation by the young reporters about the Watergate Scandal has shocked the nation and the journalism world. The exposure also of the scandal has led to the vigilant investigation of the judiciary and the Congress that eventually led to the resignation of the president. Meanwhile, it was called Watergate Scandal to pertain to the place where the break-in was made and where everything originated.
The Importance of the Source
In journalism, the source is an important factor in presenting credible news. Notably, journalists do not always have the necessary information on particular things, events, or people. But through sources, journalist can have unlimited access to an interesting issue, person, thing, or event, and others.
In the Watergate Scandal, the young reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, would have not known about the irregular activities of the President’s men if not for the effort of a person known only as Deep Throat. Historically, the identity of Deep Throat was never revealed even after the resignation of the President Nixon. Meanwhile, in May 31, 2005, former FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt finally came out of the open and to reveal that he was the controversial “Deep Throat” (Streissguth 52).
In the practice of journalism, the credibility of the source should be established. It is noteworthy that the quality of the reporting and the reports is the controlling aspect that invites people’s attention and the veracity of the news or information delivered. In addition, the readers look into the quality through the veracity of the facts and the truth presented.
Remarkably, in the Watergate scandal, the source of Woodward and Bernstein hid his identity under an alias. Despite the pressure that Woodward and Bernstein received from different sectors, they never revealed their source as a means of protecting their source. In addition, there were strong denials and threats from the administration but the public believed the news journalist rather than the president and his men.
Interestingly, the anonymous identity of the source was not a factor that hindered the revelation of the truth about the burglary and wire tapping activities of the President’s men. Instead, the information provided stirred the people’s anger against the administration that eventually led to the resignation of the President and the imprisonment of the President’s men. Hence, it can be observed that the identity of the source during those times was not a serious matter and did not affect the reliability and veracity of the news.