Technology “Disrupting” Journalism and Teaching (Part 1)
Recently a few friends and I saw “All The President’s Men.” The 1976 film about the Watergate burglary in 1972, the subsequent cover up by the White House and eventual resignation of President Nixon in 1974 featured Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford playing Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Robert Woodward.
As I watched the two-hour film unfold, these young investigative reporters ran down leads, established facts, verified sources, and pecked out their stories on typewriters– desktop computers didn’t enter newsrooms until the early 1980s. Constantly on landline phones in the newsroom checking out facts and sources, using street-corner telephone booths when they were checking out leads in the field, and jotting notes hurriedly as they interviewed and re-interviewed sources, the technology was clearly state-of-the-art for the early 1970s. The film (drawn from the book of the same name) is a textbook description of how investigative reporters go about their work on a daily basis.
If “Law and Order,” “NYPD Blue” and “Blue Bloods” are police procedurals detailing the steps that patrolmen and detectives investigate a case, develop theories, establish facts, and make arrests, then “All the President’s Men” is a journalism procedural much like the recent Oscar nominated film “Spotlight” that followed a Boston Globe team investigating Catholic priests accused of abusing children and youth. A generation later than the Watergate burglary and Nixon’s resignation, a “Spotlight” reporter commenting on the film, said: “We talk on the phone, we do data entry, we look at court records. Good luck making that interesting!” Their newspaper stories published in 2002 became an Oscar-winning film in 2016.