Woodward, Bernstein talk about 35th anniversary of 'All the President's Men'
Stephen Mielke navigates the upper floors of the Ransom Center, walking past labyrinthine shelves with countless gray accordion folders.
He pauses between metal stacks and pulls one of the folders from its shelf. Inside are drafts and handwritten notes from Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who reported on the break-ins at the Watergate office building in 1972.
Mielke, the head archivist, processed the collection after the two journalists' Watergate papers arrived at the University of Texas on April 7, 2003. Four years later, the Deep Throat papers were added to the archive.
On Thursday , the center's collection will grow yet again, when Woodward and Bernstein visit the UT campus and bring about a half-dozen new files, the contents of which will be made public immediately after they've been processed and archived.
Ransom Center director Thomas Staley said files related to sources who are still alive will not be released to the public or to the center.
The new files turned over to UT will reveal a previously protected source who played a role in helping the two write their second book, "The Final Days," Woodward said.
"There are some questions about who helped us, where we got certain information," Woodward said. "This will answer some of those questions."
On Thursday, the journalists will also attend two panels at the LBJ Auditorium, one to discuss the legacy of the movie "All the President's Men," with actor/director Robert Redford in attendance, and another on whether the media could break a story like Watergate today. Both panels are free, but all the tickets have been allocated.
Today, the center will screen "All the President's Men" to mark the 35th anniversary of the movie's release.
For Woodward and Bern-stein, answering whether today's media could break a similar story is not easy. Citing newspapers' financial decline and a shifting news culture, they said it is hard to predict what the media would be able to do, and especially how they will choose to cover future investigative stories.
"Everything now is driven by impatience and speed, and of course, working on Watergate was the opposite — patience and slow," Woodward said. "That's harder now, but people still do it."
News outlets, Woodward said, are faced with cutbacks and dwindling resources, which affect their ability to conduct investigations.
Harder still is having news organizations reach out to a public that increasingly does not care for facts, Bernstein said.
"We have a less serious culture in this country, I think, than we did at the time of Watergate," he said. "There is less interest in the best attainable version of the truth, which is really what good reporting is. There are more and more people who are increasingly interested in reading and watching that which reinforces their own opinions."
Bernstein said he does not know whether today's media could break a story like Watergate, but said newsrooms in this country reflect today's general culture.
"I think that it's very important to not bemoan the 'state of journalism' in isolation, if you are going to jump to that conclusion, because it's logical that the journalism of the day is going to reflect the larger culture and what people want," Bernstein said. "Many people want something quite different today when they get their hands on 'news' than they did 40 years ago."
As the industry shifts to cater to consumers, Bernstein said, reporting standards held by mainstream media suffer. He said this change prompted the emergence of ideologically driven television news programming and websites.
Bernstein said a story like Watergate would not be as well-received as it was in the 1970s. Today's government is likely to follow party lines rather than try to uphold the Constitution, he said. The criminal investigations into the Watergate burglaries, Bernstein said, are the last instances in which the U.S. government and judicial system acted the way it was intended.
Mielke said 85 percent of the two journalists' personal notes and transcribed interviews reside at the university's humanities archive. The collection constitutes 76 boxes that fill 32 linear feet of shelving.
Woodward said the collection allows young journalists and researchers to see the method they used to cover the Watergate story.
"Reporting is about method. It's about trying to take a subject or an incident and do a complete look at it," Woodward said.