Journalism, Media Arts, U.S. Government, U.S. History
For students, Watergate is history. For teachers, Watergate is what claimed hours of TV time one summer in the 70s, was a significant moment in U.S. history or is the subject of one of their favorite Robert Redford movies. In 2012 at the 40th anniversary of the arrest of a team of burglars and the beginning of the Watergate story, The Washington Post pulled together a series of articles, videos, timelines, profiles, editorial cartoons and reflections. Teachers might review these to determine what they will use with their students.
The narrative of The Watergate Story will give you the basics. Review the Watergate story by reading “The Post Investigates” and listening to videos.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are the primary reporters to cover the Watergate story for The Washington Post, and for some time the nation. It began with a police beat story, a break-in of the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office complex. Read The Watergate Story again, taking time to read The Post’s coverage. As you continue through The Post’s pursuit of the fuller story (Parts 2, 3 and 4), you will find articles written by Alfred E. Lewis, Lawrence Meyer, Laurence Stern, George Lardner Jr, Haynes Johnson, Jules Witcover and Carroll Kilpatrick as well as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Discussion might include:
• What beats do the writers cover? What does the variety of beats reflect about the story?
• As coverage is unfolding, how do reporters handle previously reported information?
• Who are the sources that are named? What type of information do they provide?
• Who was Mark Felt? Why was his identity withheld? Why was this confidential source believed by Bob Woodward?
• What is the significance of anonymous sources as reflected in the articles? Does the First Amendment protect the use of anonymous sources?
• Explain the part played by different components of the Federal Government?
• Who do students find to be the most intriguing of Nixon administration officials involved in the Watergate investigation?
• What insights can be gained from supplemental documents included in each part of The Watergate Story?
To move through the Watergate story in chronological order, visit Post Coverage. Before the Fall: 1968-1972 begins with the 1968 presidential election. Post Coverage, without the narrative of The Watergate Story, provides links to comprehensive resources, including news articles, commentary, edtiorial cartoons and other related documents.
Teachers are provided “Listen in on Interview.” Six sources of interviews with eyewitnesses and involved parties are given as a starting point for classroom discussion or student research.
Listen to “Watergate Forty Years After the Scandal.” Give students the activity sheet of the same title. After discussing the quotations and students’ responses to the questions, they could be assigned to role play one of the key characters or journalists. They could read All the President’s Men as well as The Washington Post’s Watergate Story material and listen to interviews to gain an understanding of their persona, actions and motivation.
If you want to understand the process of covering the story and meet young Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — read All the President’s Men. Be sure to distinguish details in the book from the movie.
Take a Virtual Tour
Geography, Journalism, U.S. Government
“All the President’s Men Virtual Tour” takes students to places found in All the President’s Men. Teachers might have students locate them on a map and plan the order of a tour. How have each of these places changed since 1972?
Consider All the President’s Men
Journalism, U.S. Government, U.S. History
After reading All the President’s Men, give students “Who Are All the President’s Men?” This activity considers different aspects of the nonfiction work: the individuals involved in the story, the title, oaths of office, media’s responsibility to be accurate and media as watchdog.
Recall Herblock’s Editorial Cartoons
Art, Journalism, Media Arts, U.S. Government, U.S. History
Herb Block was the official editorial cartoonist of The Washington Post for more than 50 years. Acquaint students with his work through the cartoons included in this curriculum guide.
• Give students “May 27, 1973 | National Security Blanket.” Wide margins are provided if teachers want students to locate each of the seven details included in the cartoon.
• “Visual Commentary, 1972-1974” provides four editorial cartoons. In addition to the cartoons, teachers are provided with five questions for each cartoon for a closer “reading” of the images. Answers to the questions are included for teachers’ convenience.
Review the sidebar and Additional Resources for more Herblock cartoons.
Find the Relevance of Watergate
Journalism, News Literacy, U.S. Government, U.S. History
Ask students how major news stories are covered today. Do they get their local, national and international news from Twitter, radio, television, online news or another source? Which do they consider the most valid sources of information? To what extent does it depend on the event? The location? The people involved?
Give students the commentary, “The continuing relevance of Watergate.” Washington Post editorial writer Ruth Marcus reflects on the events that lead to the resignation of Richard M. Nixon forty years ago and how the story might be covered today. Discuss the ideas presented by those Marcus quotes and by Marcus.
Investigate Investigative Reporting
Journalism, Media Literacy
In 2012, Washington Post vice president at large Len Downie Jr. reflected on the role of investigative reporting before and after Watergate. Investigation is a collaborative and defining effort as he indicates “several months after the Watergate burglary in 1972, Woodward, Bernstein and their colleagues on the local news staff of The Post were alone on the story. We were ignored and doubted by the rest of the news media and most of the country … We worried over every word of every story before putting it in the paper.”
Give students “Is Investigative Reporting Alive in Today’s Media?” after reading “Forty years after Watergate, investigative journalism is at risk.”