Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says local television is in ‘disgrace’

Carl Bernstein

FILE – Journalist Carl Bernstein attends the 2018 PEN Literary Gala in New York on May 22, 2018. Bernstein took to Twitter to specifically ‘out’ 21 Republican senators that he says have privately expressed contempt for President Donald Trump. It was an unusual form of reporting for Bernstein, who with former partner Bob Woodward broke stories that led to the resignation of former President Richard Nixon. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

(WTVO) – One of the reporters famous for uncovering the Watergate scandal has some blunt advice for today’s journalists.

Carl Bernstein, now a political analyst for CNN, spoke to the news outlet this week about his new memoir “Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom.” Bernstein criticized newsgathering tactics that are used today, saying, “it’s not rocket science.”

“Today, we see how much reporting, if it’s called that, is done from people looking up things on Google and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s how I’m going to get the story,'” Bernstein said. “You need to be listening to people, and you need to be learning their stories…you just keep persevering.”

Bernstein, along with Bob Woodward, worked at The Washington Post in the 1970s and exposed the Watergate scandal that led President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974. He told CNN that more current forms of journalism have put local news, including on television, “pretty much in disgrace all over America.”

“We have a thing in television, especially…get a good quote that seems to be controversial, run back, put it on the air,” Bernstein said. “That’s not the best obtainable version of the truth. It’s trying to manufacture controversy. That’s not what our job ought to be.”

His first job in journalism was a five-year apprenticeship at the Washington Star newspaper in the early 1960s, where he helped cover events such as the JFK assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1963 March on Washington. Bernstein reflected on this early learning in his book.

“It looked like these reporters and editors were on the most urgent errands in the nation,” Bernstein wrote. “I realized right then I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.”

There, Bernstein said he learned “common sense” reporting skills such as being observant and a good listener. He also suggested going outside of work to talk to people, where they might be more willing to talk.

“Sure, you have a preconceived notion of what the story might be,” Bernstein told CNN. “But then you get out of the office and you meet real people and you get sources and you keep knocking on doors and you learn these amazing things.”

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