‘Watergate gave the Post incredible prestige’

In your career at the Washington Post, you changed journalism pretty much with your investigative reporting, and with the Watergate scandal. Do you feel that you set the bar at a level that everybody is trying to be at all the time? I don’t like to take credit for it. You know who did it all. It’s the reporters who did it. There’s an ambience that’s created. But the ambience starts with the owner, not with the editor. The owner picks an editor who will do it or won’t do it. So I think that in a little-known way the kind of important thing about Watergate is that it showed owners that that was potentially a very successful path to take, because it gave the Post an incredible prestige – international prestige – that it never had. An even keel So I think owners got comfortable with it. Right off, I think that a lot of youngsters thought that that was pretty easy, you know, «I can do that.» You know, «The mayor refused to do something today despite overwhelming evidence that he should.» You know, something like that. The editor can take all that out and put the story on an even keel. I think it has become a kind of an «in» profession for bright young people. Especially women; there’s an awful lot of good bright women reporters, and good writers, women, good foreign correspondents; we’ve got some good women foreign correspondents. I think maybe the Pentagon Papers was maybe more important than Watergate in standing up to government and not letting government get away with things. But the Watergate thing was a sexy story. And when Redford joins in and makes a movie – they play that movie all the time in America. I can walk to work and people will say I saw you last night on the television and that’s what they’re talking about. It must be a strange feeling to see Jason Robards as you. It is. Fortunately I have always surrounded myself with friends one of whose goals was to keep my feet on the ground.

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