Watching the new DVD release of All the President's Men the other night, Brooke came upon a bombshell, buried in one of the DVD's commentary tracks. It concerns the unlikely genesis of what has become the prevailing symbol of all that is fine in American journalism.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And finally, in an era when everyone and everything breaks news, here's a bombshell I found in the featurette that comes with the new DVD release of one of my favorite movies, "All the President's Men." You know the film. [FILM CLIP]
ROBERT REDFORD AS
BOB WOODWARD: I'm Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.
ROBERT REDFORD AS
BOB WOODWARD: Markham? Mr. Markham, are you here in connection with the Watergate burglary?
MAN: I'm not here. [END FILM CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: "All the President's Men" starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein is, of course, far more than a cinematic rendering of Watergate. It is, in fact, the prevailing symbol of all that is fine in American journalism, invoked by media scolds when reporters grow complacent or craven. "All the President's Men," the movie, is based on the book of the same name, written by Woodward and Bernstein. Now, here's the bombshell: The team intended to write a different kind of chronicle, one that anatomized the Watergate affair dispassionately and impersonally. But then a call came from an entirely unexpected quarter. Here's Carl Bernstein. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
CARL BERNSTEIN: Woodward came up to me one day and said he'd gotten a call from Redford, and I said what the hell about? And he said, well, he thinks the story is really us. And at the time, we were still reporting the story, and we sure didn't think the story was really us.
BOB WOODWARD: It was helpful to me to hear him say that.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Bob Woodward.
BOB WOODWARD: And in the end, we wound up writing "All the President's Men" as a reporting story. He laid the scene for that in that first phone call.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Robert Redford.
ROBERT REDFORD: I love the idea of the fact that these guys were doing this hard work from the lowest rung of the professional ladder in their business and that their work would lead to the take-down of the highest office in the land.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So there you have it. Now for many, perhaps most Americans, the story of Watergate is just as much about the potential power of gumshoe reporters as it is about the corruption of a President, and it has shaped our perceptions, our expectations of journalism more than our view of the presidency. It's the icon of the Fourth Estate. It's the flag that it wraps around itself when the arrows fly. And the Betsy Ross who stitched that flag for future generations of news reporters and news consumers wasn't the duo known as "Woodstein." It was Robert Redford. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Megan Ryan, Tony Field, Jamie York and Mike Vuolo, and edited - by Brooke. Dylan Keefe is our technical director and Jennifer Munson our engineer, with help from Rob Christiansen. We had other assistance from Mark Phillips and Anni Katz. Our webmaster is Amy Pearl.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katya Rogers is our senior producer and John Keefe our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. You can listen to the program and find free transcripts, MP3 downloads and our podcast at Onthemedia.org and e-mail us at Onthemedia@wnyc.org. This is On the Media, from WNYC. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. (MUSIC TAG) (FUNDING CREDITS)