Before we begin, here’s a quick history lesson for those age 40 and under.
Watergate was the 1972 political scandal stemming from the June break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters located at the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington D.C. The break-in was the work of some shady characters known as “the burglars.”
When “the burglars” were caught, police learned they were connected to people known as “the creeps” who worked for the Committee to Re-Elect the President. At the White House, “the President’s men” working for President Dick Nixon got involved by raising “hush money” for “the burglars” and by helping “the creeps” cover the whole thing up.
But the media, the judiciary, and Congress would have none of that, especially after finding out all the greasy details were on tapes recorded by an Oval Office system left behind by John Kennedy. All of it added up to Nixon resigning as “the President” in August 1974.
End of history lesson. Now we resume our regular message.
Celebrity journalists did not really exist before Watergate. And it’s too bad that how-to-be a celebrity journalist ended up being the most used lesson of Watergate.
But during that summer 40 years ago, Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein really left a far more important lesson for all those who followed them in the profession.
For if either the movie (“All the President’s Men”) or their book by the same name is to be believed Woodward and Bernstein spent much of their summer of ’72 just trying to develop sources.
The reporters had a list of all the names of people who worked for Nixon’s campaign, but no personal telephone numbers or addresses. In this ancient era before the internet, the only way to match up those names was to use an old fashioned technique call “legwork,” something often used before Google came along.
This contribution to the most important lesson of Watergate: keep working through the summer doldrums and you will be rewarded.
Every summer I’ve worked in the news business, I’ve noticed the summer doldrums.
Here’s how it works now. Hedge fund manager and other 1 per centers take off for the summer, usually going to the Hamptons to wait for President Obama to arrive so they can all “hang.” This slows down the markets and causes periods of inactivity or stagnation that spreads beyond business to even the arts and academia.
Journalism is like a mirror reflecting the doldrums back at you, which causes you to do even less than you normally do. This process adds further to the doldrums. We use to deploy in August, but now we spread the doldrums at least a month earlier.
Watergate never would have been a scandal and Nixon never would have resigned if only Woodward and Bernstein done what most Washington D.C. reporters did during the summer of ’72 and gotten out of town. With both political conventions in Miami, long Florida vacations were popular that year.
But, no, Woodward and Bernstein keep driving those confusing Washington D.C. suburban residential streets, getting lost, and but eventually finding their way. That’s why Nixon had to resign.
It’s the lesson we should all remember from Watergate–if lost and confused keep working even if nobody else is. If you are doing this, everything else will come out okay.
Luckily, we do not experience the doldrums in food safety. Since we began publication, I’ve been trying to figure out the pattern for food safety-related news and I’ve finally decided there is not one.
Whenever we think we are into a lull and go into a story planning exercise, it gets blown up by events that come at us out of the blue. Big unexpected events like the 2010 Gulf oil spill or 2011 E coli outbreak in Hamburg, Germany were complex ongoing situations that we covered extensively for months in Food Safety News.
Like major outbreaks, especially those causing injuries or deaths, are covered here with dozens and sometimes hundreds of articles that help balance out any seasonal nature to what we do.
As for the 40th Anniversary of Watergate, I think we should wait a couple of years to really celebrate it. After all, none of us paid any attention to it during that summer of 1972. But by May 1973 when the Senate Watergate Committee began televised hearings, you could not go anywhere with out hearing or seeing them.
We were all paying attention then, and it’s always better when we do.© Food Safety News