Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No place for 'idiot culture' in news

Pulitzer Prize winner speaks in Winnipeg

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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 Friday 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 the pair wrote implicated then-U.S. 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 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 screened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the journalism conference.

Bernstein said repeatedly in his speech he didn't want to be nostalgic. But he wishes 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 novice reporters to venture out and uncover news stories after their work hours are over.

"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.

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2014 A13

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