Everyone who has ever taken a 101 course on journalism would have learnt about Deep Throat and the scandal of Watergate.
Back in the 1970s, President Nixon was then facing re-election and the timely burglary of his Democratic opponents hardly went unnoticed. But it was only till Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, two young and intrepid reporters from The Washington Post, published sensitive and classified information about the president that Watergate began unravelling. Bernstein and Woodward identified the source of their information as a well-placed government official, whom they nicknamed “Deep Throat”, then a pornographic phenomenon.
Bernstein and Woodward has never unveiled their source, maintaining that as journalists, they needed to protect his anonymity. They did, however, promise to reveal Deep Throat’s identity when he died, and for the next 30 years, speculation was rife.
And now, the identity of Deep Throat has been revealed, not by Woodward or Bernstein, they key protagonists of Watergate, but by an attorney friend of Deep Throat in Vanity Fair – Deep Throat is Mark Felt, the deputy director of FBI during Watergate.
As Richard Bradley mused in The Huffington Post, why not Woodward and Bernstein? Yes, exactly, why not and why Vanity Fair?
It’s quite a shame that the secret has been revealed in this manner, frankly. When studying the ethics concerning this issue, we had learnt that this had not only shaped the future of journalism, but was a mystery that had piqued and intrigued many over the years. To know that the outing was driven mainly by monetary greed, of not the man himself but his daughter, is a rather disappointing and lame way of learning the truth.
They explained that they wanted their father’s legacy to be heroic and permanent, not anonymous. And beyond their main motive—posterity—they thought that there might eventually be some profit in it.
–taken from Vanity Fair article
Maybe it was the Felt family’s right to decide if they want to go public, given that Mark Felt had probably suffered in silence due to the accusations and intense public glare for the past 30 years. Who are we to judge them for wanting to make some money out of it? As Nora Ephron said, the family is probably now trying to obtain movie and TV rights to this legacy.
Maybe it’s a journalistic dream to wish that the whole issue had come full circle, with Woodward and Bernstein being the ones to unveil the truth. That was the way the saga was supposed to end.
It just seems sad that Mark Felt, a 91-year-old man suffering from the onset of dementia, was coaxed into coming out into the open by a family that wanted their name imprinted into the legacy, as well as make some dollars while they still can.
“There’s a principle [of protecting anonymous sources] involved,” Mr. Bernstein said…”Reporters may be going to jail today for upholding that principle, and we don’t and won’t belittle it now.”
–taken from The New York Times (registration needed)