Watergate isn’t journalism’s only peak
Forty years ago this week, The Washington Post — and its self-described “young and hard-digging reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein” — took home a Pulitzer Prize for public service for coverage of the Watergate scandal. Other winners in journalism that year included the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times and Knight Newspapers, and entries from several local newspapers — all part of what we today would call “mainstream media.”
The Watergate era, which echoed well past President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, was a time when reporters were considered heroes by most, newspapers and broadcast outlets still churned out high profits and journalism school enrollments swelled.
Forty years after Watergate, Careercast.com’s 2013 annual report tagged “reporter” as the worst job to have. There were just under 1,800 daily newspapers in 1985, and fewer than 1,400 exist today. Yet, with all the negative news, don’t count out a free press yet.
Look at the Pulitzer winners this year. Winners again included regulars such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. But prizes also went to a Fort Lauderdale reporting team, which included a “database editor” examining traffic statistics, and a three-person team from Inside ClimateNews.org.
We’re in the midst of a huge, exciting change in how we get news, and from whom. If we work at accessing multiple news and information sources, this new, larger and more varied stream of news will be ever more valuable to each of us.
Forty years from now, it’s my bet the Watergate era will be remembered as “a” pinnacle of American journalism — not “the.”
Gene Policinski is senior vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center.