What young journalists can learn from ‘All the President’s Men’

By SAIRA SUMBAL

A movie that every American and, better yet, every journalist, should see: “All the President’s Men.”

The 1976 movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture, and won two. And aside from Bob Woodward’s suave haircut (played by Robert Redford) and a newsroom that reminds you of how happy you are that the digital age happened, an upcoming, starting out, and trying-to-make-it-writer can take a lot away from the movie … if you so choose, that is.

The very vague scenario because I don’t believe in spoilers: Redford and Dustin Hoffman who play Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein find themselves on a journey as they “stumble,” across evidence that leads them to uncovering the biggest scandal in the history of our country … Watergate.

Something is to be said about the way in which Woodward and Bernstein’s characters interact with their sources. There are a ton of road blocks that Woodward and Bernstein hit — I mean; they are trying to uncover one of the biggest scandals in our country’s history. But even after some of their sources won’t “work,” with them, they still continue to treat them with the utmost respect, being able to master an art of finding a medium between being persistent, and still being courteous. That’s an art.

The movie shows what goes into breaking a big story (really, big). “All the President’s Men” wouldn’t be the same story without the depiction of Woodward and Bernstein obsessively stressing out, making sure all their sources are locked down, having their editors doubt them, and going through ultimate paranoia to make sure that the story will break, knowing that it could blow up in their faces.

You also learn from the movie that you have to get to a place where you can trust your instincts. Being an effective story teller is pertinent, but all the “journalistic skills,” won’t matter if you don’t learn to trust your instincts. It’s that voice inside of you that tells you that you should turn up at a particular place at a particular time. It’s your instincts.

You really learn what the 1970s print newsroom looks like. A lot of typewriters, pushing of papers around, and people smoking in the office. You really realize how much the digital age has altered the way reporters do their storytelling. Good? Bad? I’ll let you be the judge.

Most importantly, this movie says something about America. Even in the darkest of times in our country, there is still a quest (even if it is a couple voices) to bring to justice those that attempt to threaten our founding principles. And that’s a journalist’s job: maintaining a transparency within society, upholding the truth, and reporting on issues that are pertinent to the public’s interest. And this is true, whether you’re writing about everything from politics to fashion.

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