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Journalism Legend Carl Bernstein Speaks at DePauw

By Isabelle Chapman
On February 15, 2013

  • Carl Bernstein, world-renowned journalist, spoke in MeHarry hall Wednesday evening and told students to “be a good listener. Let people tell you what their truth is.”. SUNNY STRADER / THE DEPAUW

In the summer of 1972, this week's Ubben lecturer and world-renowned journalist Carl Bernstein broke the news of Watergate to an unsuspecting nation. 
With the help of Bob Woodward, the two reporters uncovered the biggest scandal the United States had ever seen and unapologetically took down a criminal president of the United States. Their reporting would later win the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for The Washington Post.
Wednesday evening, after a long day of shaking hands with faculty and students all over campus, Bernstein addressed a crowd in Meharry Hall to discuss the uncertain future of his craft.
Professor Lili Wright introduced the living legend, and begged the question, "How can we bring our beloved field back from the grave?"
Bernstein responded with just as much passion and love for the industry as one would assume he had as a 28-year-old reporter hot on the trail of the biggest breaking news story of the 20th century, but not without frustration.
"Journalism is not dead," Bernstein said, peeking out behind his glasses to eye viewers in the front row, before going on to discuss that the problems in his field are not limited to reporting, but are prominent issues in America at large.
"Journalism is a reflection of the larger culture. It's troubled. We've had thirty years of cultural warfare in America," Bernstein said. "It has taken a terrible toll on our country, on our culture, on our politics and on our journalism."
But despite alleged cultural warfare, Bernstein doesn't seem to think that good reporting is irrelevant nor that it is gone for good. In fact, Bernstein stressed that journalism is now more important than ever because of issues of bi-partisanship and a general lack of enthusiasm for truth amongst people today.
"We must pursue the best obtainable version of the truth. We live in an age when people...want to enforce what they already know. Facts become unimportant," Bernstein said of issues caused by America's largely divided political culture.
Ken Owen, Executive Director of Media Relations for DePauw, said that he hopes that students take the lessons of Bernstein's lecture to heart.
"We simply need to do a better job of seeking out truths. Finding the truth is never easy. But [Bernstein's lecture] was a perfect message for our time," Owen said.
But despite Bernstein's frustration with the state of the general American society, he maintained that he still believes in journalists. He stated, "I have total faith."
Bernstein closed his speech by reminding his audience-both journalists and non-journalists-to listen.
"Every first-rate story I've ever done has been a surprise because I listened. I followed where persistence would take me. I went to hear other people, not to hear me," Bernstein said before adding, "That's a good place for us to start."

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