For an entire generation of young journalists, the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s was like a powerful drug. The toppling of Richard Nixon provided a high. Called by Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee “the longest shot in the history of American journalism,” Watergate altered the political and media landscape the way heroin rewires the brain. The point of journalism went from covering the news to destroying the president — especially if such a figure were a Republican or a conservative. The language of addiction, a “rush,” came to define the media’s behavior whenever there was a political scandal. They even created fake scandals to feed their habits.
Sullivan was in high school in her native town of Lackawanna, New York, when Watergate hit. A kid who loved language, by the time Nixon resigned, she was the editor of her school newspaper. Here she is on Woodward and Bernstein: “They were badass, the essence of swashbuckling cool, especially when confused in my teenage mind with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman … I wanted to be them, or at least immerse myself in that newsroom culture. Righteousness could be achieved, according to the self-important journalism adage, by ‘afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.'” (Why the comfortable should be afflicted is never explained.)
That’s easy – they had an (R) after their names:
Among the funniest parts of Newsroom Confidential are Sullivan’s reports of the freakout in the Washington Post newsroom when Donald Trump was elected president. Editor Marty Baron had to keep reminding the staff that they just had to “keep doing their jobs.”
This was not possible. Trump was fentanyl, an insanely powerful drug that was equally dangerous. The media went crazy. They simply could not let the man do his job. The press suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story , defended the security agencies they had ferociously distrusted after Watergate, and speed-balled the idea that there was a seven-hour “gap” in President Trump’s White House phone logs. Bob Woodward, the original scandal dealer, was rolled out to huff and puff and proclaim that this was, yes, worse than Watergate. The story turned out to be false.
Read the whole thing.