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Truth, Watergate and the freedom of the press

During his lecture, “The First Amendment and the Common Good,” investigative journalist and author Carl Bernstein spoke to a crowded UWF Conference Center about the importance of finding the most obtainable version of the truth.

Bernstein’s lecture on April 17 was the last segment of Seligman First Amendment Celebrations series.

“The missing ingredient in our national debate today is the common good, the legacy of our constitutional rights,” Bernstein said to the crowd. “Today, Washington exists largely in a partisan cocoon.”

Bernstein said that the politics of ideology are overriding problem solving in America’s current political landscape. This problem, he said, also extends to the media, mainly the way the general public processes and receives information.

“Increasingly, we live in an age when people reading the web, newspapers and watching television news aren’t looking for the best obtainable version of the truth,” Bernstein said.

He also said that the importance of the First Amendment is a profound responsibility for journalists and consumers and should be treated as such.

“Our freedom of the press is unparalleled anywhere else the world and it should not be squandered,” he said.  “Often in American we do squander it—on excessive gossip, sensationalism or manufactured controversy.”

During a question and answer session after the lecture, Bernstein gave advice to aspiring journalists. His advice was simple. Be a good listener. Read a lot of books. Read “The New York Times” every day.

“Reporters tend to be lousy listeners,” Bernstein said. “Not enough listening. Not enough common sense. Not enough respect for the people we cover.”

Bernstein was introduced by UWF President Judy Bense, who also presented Bernstein with a key to the city of Pensacola on behalf of Mayor Ashton Hayward. She said she remembered when she was 28 years old and how the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein changed her generation.

“It changed how I looked at the United States, our policies, our newspapers, our politics,” Bense said to the audience.

During his three days at UWF, Bernstein spent time with students from the departments of history, communication arts and government.

“It was great to hear from someone who is a huge part of such a pivotal point in American history,” Amanda Johnson, a telecommunications and film major, said. “I loved hearing his opinions on today’s journalism, good and bad.”

While working at “The Washington Post” in 1972, Bernstein and his colleague Bob Woodward broke the story that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

After Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting on the Watergate scandal, the Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for public service.

Matt Lamb & Alexa Reed
Staff Writer & News Editor

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