Carl Bernstein doesn’t want news organizations to cater to "idiot culture." He also thinks everyone ought to be better listeners.
Bernstein was speaking to a roomful of journalists as they enthusiastically live-tweeted quotes from his speech.
The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter was in Winnipeg today presenting a keynote speech as part of an international journalism conference called Holding Power to Account.
The conference, co-sponsored by the CBC and the University of Winnipeg, brought Bernstein to the city for the first time in 50 years.
Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal with his Washington Post colleague, Bob Woodward, in the early 1970s. The stories that the pair wrote implicated then US President Richard Nixon in a range of abuses of power, eventually forcing his resignation.
The pair won the Pulitzer for their efforts and later co-authored a best-selling book, All the President’s Men, about their time spent reporting on the Watergate wire-tapping scandal.
The book was later turned into a Hollywood blockbuster of the same name in 1976 starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as Bernstein and Woodward. The film will be screening tonight at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the journalism conference.
Bernstein said repeatedly in his speech that he didn’t want to be nostalgic. But he wished the basics of reporting still remained relevant today.
"Common sense and being a good listener, I think those are the essential elements," he said.
"The most important thing is not reduced to one important thing. I think that reporting is about getting the best obtainable version of the truth."
Bernstein also encouraged young reporters to venture out and uncover news stories after their work hours were through.
"It’s not about heroism, it’s about what you do," Bernstein said. "We can’t succumb to idiot culture. We can’t succumb to ideological coherence."
Bernstein left the audience with one of his favourite quotes from his friend, Woodward.
"Most or all great reporting is done in defiance of management," he said.
The Holding Power to Account conference runs until Sunday.