Forty years ago today, there was a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. The subsequent chain of events would lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and a high-water mark for investigative journalism, following the efforts of two reporters on the Washington Post newspaper in exposing a cover-up.
Today, Gerald Warner, in Scotland on Sunday, not only questions how remarkable the investigative journalism was during Watergate but compares it with 'journalism now being in the dock' at the Leveson Inquiry into Press Standards, set up amid allegations of phone-hacking made against the now closed News of the World newspaper.
He writes: “The unction of priesthood with which journalists were anointed in the wake of Watergate has been washed away by Leveson and associated issues.”
Earlier, he pens: “Today, in Britain, the 40th anniversary of Watergate is overshadowed by the Leveson inquiry, but this time it is the press that are in the dock. The two events are remotely linked: they are opening and closing brackets forming a parenthesis around 40 years of licensed media irresponsibility. The self-serving mantras of 'the People’s right to know' and the so-called 'public interest' became the justificatory litany for ever more intrusive harassment of individuals and extravagantly propagandist bias in news coverage. The Watergate affair was indefensible. Yet there was truth in Nixon’s claim that if he had been following the liberal agenda the media preferred, 'Watergate would have been a blip'.”