What Inspires me as a Journalist
February 17, 2023
Oscar Wilde, a famous Irish poet and playwright, once wrote that “[i]n America, the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever.” For me, journalism is the most important form of writing and has found a special place in my heart. In the opinion of my journalism teacher, Mrs. Gregory, the fundamental goal of a journalist should be to “find and report the truth.” History has demonstrated that a successful journalist, guided by this seemingly basic principle, has the capability to change the world. Two journalists who inspired me to write truly changed the world when, in the 1970s as young writers for the Washington Post, they broke the news of the largest presidential scandal in American history while simultaneously preserving the freedom of the press and free speech. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward have inspired me to make a difference with my writing.
The investigative reporting lessons of Woodward and Bernstein are numerous, but the two that stand out to me are persistence and purpose. The story of Watergate started with word of a simple break-in at the National Democratic Headquarters. But it ended a little more than two years later with the resignation of President Richard Nixon and the indictment of dozens of White House aides. Throughout those two years, Woodward and Bernstein followed every lead, used multiple sources, knocked on many doors, placed hundreds of phone calls, pulled all-nighters – even put their lives at risk. Despite facing stiff resistance from the Nixon Administration, Woodward and Bernstein “followed the money” all the way to the top, eventually breaking the biggest political story of all time. They were guided by a relentless commitment to the pursuit of truth and a realization that a free and independent press is vital to a successful democracy. Of course, it did not hurt that they also worked for an editor, Ben Bradlee, who not only expected excellence from his staff but also was not afraid to take chances.
These lessons have successfully guided my own tenure as Editor-in-Chief of The Cavalier and served me well in my own writing. Like Woodard and Bernstein, I am a meticulous notetaker. And regardless of whether I write about local events, national political issues, or even a school essay, I double-check all my sources to ensure 100% accuracy. The stakes may not be as high as depicted in All the President’s Men, but my own commitment to excellence and to discovering the truth is the same. Further, I have learned (sometimes the hard way), that the first draft is never the end work product. It is the beginning and will only get better with fact-checking and refinement. Lastly, I know now that successful journalism is a team sport. Woodard and Bernstein did not win the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting – the Washington Post did. And that is because it was a collective effort, with credit to go all around. I hope to continue these journalistic efforts in the future