We’ve got to get
Ideological warfare between Republicans and Democrats in the nation’s capital has made it more difficult for Americans to access the truth on important public policy issues, said Carl Bernstein, an investigative reporter.
“We’ve got to get back to the basics, both as reporters and as people who consume news, and start using some common sense,” Bernstein said Thursday in a speech to about 150 paid guests inside the LSU Student Union as part of the Manship School of Mass Communication’s centennial celebration.
Bernstein, 69, along with fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, played a key role uncovering the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.
The scandal led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, who had attempted to cover up his connection to a 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.
Forty years later, Bernstein said, Washington, D.C. has become a “partisan cocoon” where the nation’s leaders have lost sight of the public good, focusing instead on pushing their political ideology. This, in turn, has led to many media outlets becoming polluted with misinformation, he said.
As a result, “We are becoming more and more close-minded as a people, culturally,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein pointed to the recent 16-day partial federal government shutdown that temporarily furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers as an example of theatrical politics that placed ideological interests above public good.
He said reporters must do a better job of putting divisive issues like the impasse that resulted in the government shutdown into context, adding that almost no one covered the recent government shutdown more appropriately than comedian Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.
“He had the context just right,” Bernstein said of Stewart’s coverage.
Bernstein, who dropped out of the University of Maryland to begin a reporting career at the now-defunct Washington Star, said he hoped current journalism students like the ones he spoke to at LSU before Thursday’s luncheon can provide citizens with more-contextualized, truthful stories.
“Those kids I met with today are great. They are wonderful,” Bernstein said.
“With the right kind of journalism coaching we will have another generation dedicated to the best obtainable version of the truth.”