Carl Bernstein lectured on the “total breakdown” of one of the three branches of government and how the role of the press needs to change last week.
Bernstein, who, together with Bob Woodward, broke the story of President Richard Nixon’s role in the Watergate scandal. He lectured at William Paterson University on Friday night.
A major topic of discussion was Bernstein’s observation of the U.S. Congress’ “total breakdown” and inability to accurately represent the interests of the American populace.
“It’s one of the most important stories in two and a half centuries of American history, on par with the Civil War and the American Revolution,” Bernstein said, calling the legislative branch of government “completely dysfunctional” and "subject to every influence except the common good.”
Bernstein said the media has played a role in the deterioration of the relationship between the representatives and those whom they represent.
“The breakdown comes at a time when people aren’t seeking out the best attainable version of the truth, which I think what good journalism is all about,” Bernstein said. “Now, people read to reinforce their own beliefs and notions they already hold, rather than broaden their own horizons.”
The media has a responsibility to doggedly look beyond first truths and demand real answers to questions they have about the issues that affect their lives.
Bernstein stressed to a group of journalism students before the lecture the need to constantly talk to people.
“One of a things you really get a sense of is the hunger people have for real leadership, especially in the press,” Bernstein said. “We’ve let these people down.”
Bernstein started his 52-yearlong career at the Washington Star in 1960. He and Woodward shared a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of Watergate for The Washington Post.
“I thought he was right on with a lot of things,” said attendee David Schwartz. “Our politicians and our media have totally forgotten about us. It’s like we don’t even matter anymore.”