A fitting coda to college-graduation season in San Diego (UCSD breaks out the caps and gowns this weekend), Woodward and Bernstein got some renewed props for their crusade-for-truth journalism of 30 years ago, which brought down a presidency, scored points for the Constitution and made thousands of young people want to be reporters. That's what one disclosure, a whopper, by a 91-year-old man — that he was W&B's "Deep Throat" — accomplished.
Now, if only Mark Felt can convince college grads — not only would-be newspaper reporters but any of them who strive to effect change in this world — that journalism (and print journalism especially) is a way to do so. In the spirit of Woodward and Bernstein. In the spirit of the Constitution.
But don't just take Felt's word for it. Or mine.
Grace-Marie Turner, a Washington, D.C.-based reporter for Copley News Service from 1976 to 1982, has spent her career in journalism, politics and economics. She's currently president of the D.C.-based Galen Institute, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on health and tax policy. She became frustrated as a journalist "by the inability to get more of what I felt was important into print … everybody wanted to write about backroom power politics, but there are really big ideas that need to be covered.
"I was more tuned in to markets and free-market ideas, even as a journalist."
Though her professional life today is many-faceted, including much public speaking, Turner writes every day, and still believes print journalism is an honorable profession.
"It's where the really solid, substantive reporting has to take place," she said. "That draws people who want to learn more, who want to get their teeth into a story."
Listen up, graduates.
"Print journalism has to attract people who love to write. That's one sell (for those aspiring to the craft)," Turner said. "But I also think that's where they can make a difference. That's where ideas get changed."
Yes, this profession, of which I am still proud to be a part, is not about pomp and circumstance. It's about ideas … or at least it should be. When ideas become less important, then we are fish wrap, or worse: television.
You may now flip your tassels, grads. See you, some day, in the newsroom.