Witt Series Brings Watergate Reporter Carl Bernstein (1998)


“This story was published in the Wittenberg Torch, student newspaper at Wittenberg University on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1998.  It is my original text, and is a valued article featured in my professional clipbook.”

On Nov. 4, when famed journalist and author Carl Bernstenin will present his lecture, “The Use and Misuse of Media Power,” over two decades of Wittenberg alumni will soon have the chance to match a face with the words they have been reading and studying for almost 25 years.In 1974, Bernstein, with co-author Bob Woodward, wrote All the President’s Men, a famous account of the Watergate scandal. While reporting for The Washington Post, the two aided the Watergate investigation with their new methods and approaches to reporting.

Professor of English and Director of the Wittenberg Journalism Program, Imogene Bolls, said there is a strong connection between the author and “decades of students reading this book” at the university. She said that every year since the book’s release, she has had her journalism students read it. “It has helped students for 20 years to understand many aspects of the government, courts, and grand jury proceedings, as well as why and how the Nixon presidency collapsed,” Bolls said.

Bolls linked the importance of reading the book to helping her students excel in the journalism field. She said that after graduation, she often hears from former students who tell her that All the President’s Men helped them “read current events through history.” She said, “I have been called and written back by students on the issues of Irangate, Contragate, and Whitewater, saying the events all made sense because of reading All the President’s Men.”

Bolls cited the book as an important part of history. “Watergate was a watershed for America because it was the first time america lost its innocence after 200 years,” she said.

Bernstein’s reporting skills directly led to his role in the investigation of Watergate. Bolls described him as “always pushing the edges.” “(Bernstein) could get people to talk,” she said. “It took both Bernstein and Woodward to break the story,” she said, “but Bernstein had tenacity and was a risk take.” She praised him as “a superb writer,” and for his instinct to “think on his feet”.

Bolls also said that Bernstein, most likely, would be a “high-draw speaker” because of the recent White House scandal. She said people might be interested in the lecture due to the connection of Bernstein and the near impeachment of President Nixon to today’s impeachment inquiries surrounding President Clinton. However, she said that Bernstein does not believe the two scandals are comparable in degree because Watergate “put blemishes both on the White House and the nation.”

Gwen Scheffel, coordinator for the Wittenberg Series, said that her committee scheduled the Series’ speakers a year ago. “It’s ironic,” she said, “we could never have predicted another impeachment hearing.”

Scheffel said that the fact that Bernstein was, and still is, such an “active player” in political reporting is important to the series. “He has taken a strong stance on the journalists’ responsibility for what they put out in public,” she said. “He will likely combine his feelings on this subject with the present political situation,” Scheffel speculated.

The fact that Bernstein will speak the day after elections, his recent appearances reporting political commentaries on PBS, and the role of the media involving President Clinton’s situation are all things that Scheffel said may draw a large crowd.

The lecture will be the first during the Wittenberg Series Writer’s Week, which will feature all published writers. During her 10 years as the coordinator for the series, Scheffel stated that “we have never done a residency of this type.”

Bernstein is scheduled to speak on Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the HPER Center. Scheffel said Bernstein would allow for a question and answer segment after the free lecture, immediately followed by a brief reception. She added that he might also sign books during the reception.

Scheffel explained the significance of the Leventhal Endowed Lectures for Wittenberg, in that “the events are scheduled in an effort to represent the artistic disciplines we teach here through emphasis on theater, dance and music, and to inspire education.” “The Fred R. Leventhal family has donated these gifts to Wittenberg for 17 years in an attempt to promote the university as part of the community, and from that, make a better Springfield,” she said.

Scheffel predicted that in addition to students, faculty, and alumni, members of the local media and public would be in the audience.


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