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SPJ: ‘Watergate 35 years later’


Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein speak in October to journalism students in Washington, D.C.
Thirty-five years ago, two young reporters at The Washington Post broke a story that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Those two young reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were part of a star-studded panel that highlighted the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) National Convention in Washington, D.C., in early October.

About 450 SPJ members, including four from The University of Iowa, congregated in the convention center’s ballroom for the Saturday afternoon super session. The session opened with a viewing of some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from "All the President’s Men," a movie about Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate reporting.

Then the real-life stars came to the stage.

“It was so cool to see [Woodward and Bernstein] in the movie then in person,” SPJ member Abby Harvey (senior, Marshalltown, Iowa) said.

As the panelists walked on stage, the 450-plus journalists in the room broke into applause and grabbed their cameras.

“It was like paparazzi to Britney Spears,” SPJ member Megan Stephenson (junior, Bettendorf, Iowa) said, “Everyone in the ballroom went crazy with pictures and cheering.”

The session, entitled “Watergate: Thirty-five Years Later,” included Bernstein who recently wrote “A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton”; Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor and current vice president at-large at The Post; and Woodward who is currently the assistant managing editor at The Post.

The panel also included Scott Armstrong, executive director of Information Trust; Daniel Schorr, the senior news analyst for National Public Radio; Alicia Shepard, author of “Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate”; and Bob Schieffer of CBS News served as the panel moderator.

UI chapter delegates Brittney Hibbs, Megan Stephenson, Abby Harvey and Dick Johns wait for Woodward and Bernstein to take the stage for “Watergate: Thirty-five Years Later.”

“This is like the reunion tour,” Woodward said as he sat down. After the crowd calmed down, Schieffer opened the panel with a question to Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee.

“Did you know how big this story would become?”

The three men answered no and joked that is why Woodward and Bernstein, then ages 29 and 28 respectively, had to cover the story. It didn’t seem like a big deal at first.

“No one knew about it outside Washington,” Bernstein said, “This was before the Internet, you know.”

The panel continued with questions from Schieffer. He then opened it up to audience questions.

The panel and the book signing that followed lasted about an hour and a half and was the highlight of the convention. It was also very significant to the journalists who attended.

“[The Watergate session] was a real treat,” SPJ advisor Dick Johns said after the panel.

“It was amazing to see and hear and be so close to some of journalism’s greatest,” SPJ member Brittney Hibbs (junior, Johnston, Iowa) said.   

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