Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Watergate’


In journalism on 26 Oct 2017 at 2:42 pm

If you are a fan of journalism, if you believe this thing we do is ultimately our salvation, please find a copy of the Fall 2017 edition of the Columbia Journalism Review. (Or read it here.) It’s a must-read for anyone producing journalism in the United States today.

The entire issue is dedicated to the relationship between President Donald Trump and the press, and what that means for a society that feels perpetually on the brink these days.

The magazine offers a deep dive into the role of Ivanka Trump in the White House and how her interactions with the press through the years might shape what we see now. A former editor of the New York Observer tells how then publisher (now first son-in-law) Jared Kushner ordered a “hit piece” on a bank executive the Trumps thought had done them wrong. CJR gives us a rollicking history of the White House press room, and a truly scary look at what it’s like to cover a political protest these days. … Read the rest of this entry »


Happy Watergate Day

In journalism on 18 Jun 2015 at 1:14 pm


Watergate changed my life. That is true despite the fact that I was only 11 when the break-in occurred on June 17, 1972, 43 years ago this week. it is true even though I lived a continent away when Richard Milhous Nixon resigned from office, stepped up to that Marine helicopter, flashed a weird peace sign and choppered off into the sunset.

Actually, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee changed my life. It wasn’t the first time investigative journalism had uncovered illegal behavior in government, but it happened at just the right time in the course of human events to drive thousands of kids like me into a profession that seemed if not saintly at least on the right side of history. Sometimes that’s enough.

Sadly, on this anniversary of the Watergate burglary that kind of journalistic will is in short supply. At the risk of sounding a bit hyperbolic, I think that our business and our nation are in grave danger as a result.

Getting our mojo back will take many things but none more important than swagger.

To this day, reading the very first story of the break-in, under the byline of Woodward and Bernstein, leaves me breathless. It’s a barking dog of a story. It’s relentless in the telling of facts that some might consider irrelevant. Together, the facts signal that these two guys on the Metro desk were not going away. Consider that this was before information was available with a keystroke. Every bit of this story was gathered by hand, by getting out of the office and finding sources. These were two young reporters who didn’t really know anyone in political circles. The hard work evident in these few graphs is typical of the dogged pursuit that came to define a generation of American journalists: … Read the rest of this entry »

People, paper and places

In journalism on 31 Oct 2013 at 3:17 pm

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 5.14.16 PM

Look, maybe you don’t think you need this. Maybe you’ve been a reporter almost as long as Bob Woodward has been a reporter. Be that as it may, take five minutes to listen to a master of the craft tell of the three important sources for news – people, places and paper.

I stumbled on this while visiting the blog of my good friend, R.B. Brenner, deputy director of the Stanford University Graduate Program in Journalism. Brenner was the city editor at the Washington Post and now teaches some very bright journalists who are going to change the world.

Woodward’s advice seems elemental, but I’ve never known a reporter who was particularly adept with all three “Ps.” I’m more of a people person. I always felt I could cajole information out of people more easily than I could find the paper (or online data.) I always admired those reporters who were better diggers than I.

“Places,” as Woodward suggests, is the forgotten leg of the three-legged stool. He recommends you get your ass out of the chair. Say it three times and click your heels together and you might just get to journalistic Oz. … Read the rest of this entry »

About anonymous sourcing

In journalism on 18 Oct 2013 at 8:51 am
Watergate source Mark Felt from Vanity Fair

Watergate source Mark Felt from Vanity Fair

Montrose Daily Press Publisher Francis Wick is on the record with his latest brush with an anonymous sourcing, and here’s hoping his experience sparks a conversation over anonymous sources. From an email to me:

“… One of our three county commissioners had a medical emergency subsequently needing surgery. The county was very hush-hush given HIPPA regulations, we couldn’t get anyone on the record, and the family requested we (not) run a story. (Within a couple of days,) we’d received enough phone calls that I permitted us to use an anonymous source to break the story, however the county and family were adamant that we not run what we had because it was inaccurate. I explained that we were going to run what we had unless given specifics on the record.”

That story, published several days after the newspaper first began working the story, begins:

County Commissioner Ron Henderson has undergone a quadruple bypass procedure after suffering a heart attack and is recuperating at St. Mary’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction, a source has told the Daily Press. … Read the rest of this entry »

E is for evidence

In journalism on 6 Jun 2013 at 8:45 pm
FBI staffer Mark Felt, Deep Throat

FBI staffer Mark Felt, Deep Throat

If you came of age at a certain time, you probably romanticized journalism to include clandestine meetings with shadowy figures whose murmurs could bring down a government. And if you did, you will never forget the name, “Deep Throat.”

The key source in the Watergate saga famously told Washington Post reporters  to follow the money and served to corroborate facts that made publication possible.

Of course, most of us go our entire careers without needing to meet a man we don’t know in a darkened garage. That doesn’t mean that a little discretion isn’t called for from time to time.

That is particularly true today, after the revelations that the federal government is tapping reporters’ phones and collecting metadata across entire telecommunications networks.

But how do we protect sources and ourselves in a world that seems to cache every keystroke and phone conversation on someone else’s server?

Sometimes, the answer lies in eschewing modern tools in favor of old school, face-to-face interviews. That is one of the tips from Beth Winegarner at the Poynter Institute. … Read the rest of this entry »