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The Media's effect on the Perceptions of the Watergate scandal

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Patrick Williams

on 16 October 2012

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Transcript of The Media's effect on the Perceptions of the Watergate scandal

by Patrick Williams The Media and the Watergate Scandal but in the end, it was just the tip of the iceberg. It's a question that has been asked for decades, but we've never completely answered it. We've always had reasons not to trust the media, and the Watergate scandal only made us question them even more. Are the Media Trustworthy? So what effect has the media had on our perceptions of the Watergate scandal? In a poll by CNN and TIME, 78% of 1,024 people interviewed agreed that the Watergate scandal was a turning point for trust in government. Although the scandal showed the public that the government cannot be trusted all the time, was not the first political scandal in our nation's history. Media coverage of Watergate helped shape our beliefs about the event. The Media's Role in our Perceptions
"COVERING WATERGATE: SUCCESS AND BACKLASH." www.time.com. TIME Magazine, 8 July 1974. Web. 13 Oct. 2012.
"Cynicism Didn't Start With Watergate." CNN. Cable News Network, 1997. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/gen/resources/watergate/trust.schneider/>.
"The News Media Is Still Recovering From Watergate." - New York Times. The New York Times, 05 June 2005. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/06/05/weekinreview/05korn.html?_r=0>.
"Serious Or 'Just Politics'?" CNN. Cable News Network, 1997. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/gen/resources/watergate/poll/>.
"The Watergate Story." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 08 June 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/watergate/>. Works Cited At first glance, the relationship between the media and the Watergate scandal may not seem very obvious. In June of 1972, five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC. President Nixon attempted to cover it up, was caught, and resigned before the vote on his impeachment. Watergate: At a Glance The public reaction to the Watergate scandal was mixed. In a poll done by CNN in 1997 (25 years after the scandal), 44% of respondents believed that Nixon deserved to be impeached for trying to cover up the break-in and attempting to stop FBI investigations of the incident. The Public Reacts Former President Richard Nixon The Watergate office complex in Washington DC What was the media's role? As in many situations, people don't see at first how important the media are to the topic. We rarely realize that the way the media portray men and women affects the way we see ourselves, and the way people in fashion ads are contorted with computer programs to look attractive. There are many examples like these, and we are all blissfully unaware of the powerful effect perception has on us and the way we think. An example of the use of photoshop on a model Very few reporters ever thought of the media's involvement in the Watergate scandal until it was over. In fact, newspapers and magazines didn't start discussing it until several years after the dust had settled on the scandal. Many historians today will say that the media and journalism played a bigger role in Watergate than we originally thought... Slipping in Under our Noses One thing many of us fail to acknowledge is the fact that aside from primary sources, the media are the only way for a majority of the public to know what's going on in the country. Even though several media outlets (TIME Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post) may present the same information, they all could have used the same source, and there's always the possibility of some form of bias in reporting. The Media's Role in Politics Because the media are not always completely unbiased, they are sometimes viewed as untrustworthy. This doubt can cause a major problem in the way we react to political scandals and events; if media are the only way we receive news, the way we think and react to information is in their hands. Sometimes major media outlets court power and popularity, which is also a problem. Trust Problems? When the Watergate scandal broke, the press immediately raced to get information to the public. This created a competitive environment, which got ugly pretty fast. Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press said that Watergate "created a model of journalism that is easily abused and debased" and "It created generations of people trying to replicate that role by digging in more and more unsavory ways. As much as Watergate is a model of the journalism that we admire, you can also see in it the origins of the distrust we have today." Competition in the Press One common misconception many younger people have about Watergate involves Nixon's role in the scandal. Some say he was directly involved in the break-in while others claim he had no control over what happened but covered it up to keep his name clean. No one actually knows whether Nixon ordered the break-in or not, but media outlets at the time portrayed him in different ways. If a scandal of Watergate's size were to happen today, the portrayal of the politicians involved would differ greatly on the Fox News and MSNBC websites. Nixon's Role People who did not witness the Watergate coverage may not understand how the press and journalism changed as a result. The scandal completely transformed the way reporting is done. During the Watergate scandal reporters constantly pinned Nixon to the wall, with the support of the people. Since then the press has embraced a more aggressive style of reporting, compared to a less demanding press that existed before the scandal. Has Journalism Changed? An article in TIME Magazine published 2 years after the Watergate scandal, stated, "In declining to give Nixon the benefit of the doubt, in refusing to yield him the last word, the press has become—as its critics contend—more than an observer and expositor. It has become, quite involuntarily, a participant in a phenomenon that is partly a complex whodunit and partly a historic test of the U.S. system's ability to cleanse itself through constitutional machinery. The press is no more accustomed to this function than Congress is to running an impeachment proceeding." Has Journalism Changed? Richard Nixon
Giving his resignation
speech Richard Nixon speaking to reporters This article acknowledges that the press is constantly evolving. Forty years from now the press may function differently, or it may not exist at all. Regardless of its future form, we cannot deny the press' influence during the Watergate scandal, and the effect the disgrace had on the media. The press and other media have had a huge impact on the way we think about Watergate and about journalism in general. It's still unclear whether these changes are good or bad--but the future will let us know. Has Journalism Changed? Richard Nixon leaving the White House shortly before his resignation went into effect.
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