Do polls show declining trust in news outlets because the public thinks they’re bad? Absolutely. But fluctuations in those polls suggest that appraising news coverage in not a cold calculation. It’s emotional. Take one of journalism’s finest hours: Watergate. Some people are still angry about it. They say it eroded respect for our basic institutions. What it really eroded was respect for people in those institutions.
P.39, The Influencing Machine



Watergate was a political scandal in the 1970s that eventually lead to president Richard Nixon’s resignation. The Nixon administration attempted to cover-up its involvement in the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Nixon was the only president to resign from office. As a result of the scandal, 43 people were indicted, tried, convicted, and incarcerated, including many top Nixon administration officials.

Evidence mounted against the president’s staff, and a tape-recording system was discovered in Nixon’s office. The recordings implicated the president, and showed that he attempted to cover up the break-in. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that the president had to give the tapes to government investigators. Facing likely impeachment, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.

Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, played an integral role in the Watergate scandal by breaking the story. The two became some of the most famous journalists in America by investigating the burglary at Watergate and eventually uncovering a system of political crimes committed by the Nixon administration.

Prior to Watergate:

  • The authority of the president wasn’t questioned as much (pg. 103, The Influencing Machine).
  • Government and media have similar goals of consensus and lack of controversy (pg. 103, The Influencing Machine).

After Watergate:

  • Increased distrust of government (pg. 39, The Influencing Machine)
  •  First the press was spat upon, and then it was celebrated (pg. 39, The Influencing Machine)
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