Media Involvement in the Watergate Scandal

One of the essential exercises that shaped the outcome of the Watergate scandal is the Gavel-to-Gavel coverage of the proceedings of the Senate on the Watergate scandal. Since most of the broadcasting happened during the day, members of the public especially those at work would not have a chance to listen to the proceedings. The National Public Affairs Center for Television’s president decided that the proceedings would be rebroadcasted in the evening to ensure that those who would not watch during the day had an idea of what was going on the proceedings. The rebroadcasting went on for two months at 8 PM daily. The broadcasting always began with five minutes commentary by the news anchors: Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil including the lineup of what happened in the hearings. After airing the hearings, the anchors would conduct a commentary of 10-20 minutes that involved interviews and experts. The revelations from these hearings and broadcasts played a huge role in increasing national consciousness over the issue that threatened to force out the president.

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President Nixon refused to turn in the tapes to the Watergate committee despite the subpoenas issued by Judge Cox. The Senate committee reacted by expression of its disappointment with the president that led to a constitutional confrontation. The president had an executive privilege which the court would not rule on whether he was supposed to give in the tapes due to the separation of powers. This issue was publicly known and linked the white house to the Watergate robbery. The public, therefore, waited to hear from the president on the subject as they were aware that the office and telephone conversations had been recorded daily and consequently expected for his response to turn in the tapes. The president, however, claimed that the recordings were to remain under his control and therefore attracting national attention. The media similarly reported on the role of the white house in funding the activities of Watergate robbery as all the men on the trial and the money would be traced to the Committee to Re-elect the President. Broadcasting on the role of the white house in the scandal attracted national attention that increased the pressure for the president to resign after some of the men from the reelection committee were found guilty.

Reporters of the Washington post-Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward deserve all the credit from similarly uncovering the most critical details of the Watergate scandal. They used an anonymous whistleblower throughout their reporting at the time with most of the information consistent with other reports showing a link between the Watergate scandal and the president. Even though the findings did not clearly show that there was no connection between the burglars and the president, further details on the case found by detectives revealed that they belonged to the reelection committee along with the phone numbers of the white house. All these details were reported on national television networks transforming the issue to one of national and significant political interest considering that it involved the president. Public awareness and pressure led to convictions and later resignation by the president. The comprehensive coverage of the happenings by the media played a vital role in the results and therefore earning all of the credit for it.

 

Bibliography

Campbell, Joseph W. “Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism. Oakland.” University of California Press, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctv1wxrt2.

Kilpatrick, Carroll. “President Refuses to Turn Over Tapes; Ervin Committee, Cox Issue Subpoenas.” The Washington Post. Last modified July 24, 1973. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/president-refuses-to-turn-over-tapes-ervin-committee-cox-issue-subpoenas/2012/06/04/gJQAWfG9IV_story.html?utm_term=.6648d16b6fce.

“The Watergate Files – The Watergate Trial: May 1972 – June 1973 – Overview.” Gerald R Ford Presidential Library & Museum. Accessed April 26, 2019. https://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/museum/exhibits/watergate_files/content.php?section=1&page=a.

““Gavel-to-Gavel”: The Watergate Scandal and Public Television.” Protesting in the 1960s and 1970s. Accessed April 26, 2019. http://americanarchive.org/exhibits/watergate.