What a George Mason Expert Is Saying about…the Deep Throat Revelation

Posted: June 3, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of occasional articles on what George Mason experts have to say about a current topic. These are personal opinions and do not reflect an endorsement by George Mason University.

By Tara Laskowski

This week, Bob Woodward and the Washington Post confirmed reports that former FBI official Mark Felt was informer “Deep Throat” during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. The revelation has journalists, politicians, and historians from around the world weighing in with their opinions. George Mason Visiting Instructor Steve Klein answered a few questions about the Deep Throat secret from a journalistic perspective. Klein is coordinator of the Electronic Journalism Program and will be teaching a videoconference course in the fall on political journalism.

Steve Klein
Steve Klein

How does the revelation of the identity of “Deep Throat” change things for journalists and for history?

“This revelation, like the uncovering of any new information, provides a new perspective on history. I’ve heard people say that this story doesn’t mean as much to people less than 30 years of age, and I don’t think that’s true. My students are aware of it and its significance. I think that the ‘secret’ part of it makes it transcend generations. We still wonder what happened to Amelia Earhart or where Jimmy Hoffa is buried because the mystery of it keeps us interested.

“And now that the secret of Deep Throat has been revealed, we can see that part of our history through an additional prism. That’s the fun thing about history. It’s constantly being written and rewritten as we get new information.”

Considering the technology now, would Deep Throat and the Washington Post be able to keep that secret today?

“Today, news is much more ubiquitous and it permeates everything we do. With the Internet and blogging, anyone is a publisher and anyone can pretend to be a journalist. I think it would be much harder today to keep such a secret as opposed to 30 years ago. But, good journalists have been keeping their sources a secret since there were journalists, will continue to keep their sources, and for the most part, will be successful.”

What does this say about good journalism?

“There’s a lesson to be learned from Bob Woodward, who throughout his life and career has collected people. Any good reporter is not expected to know everyone, but he or she should know where to find people, where to find sources. And the more famous and respected you become, the more people are willing to be collected. You want to be the person to whom people want to go to.”

Are journalists today as ethical as they were 30 years ago?

“Like doctors and dentists, most journalists are capable, qualified, and ethical. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and, of course, there are always mistakes. But most journalists have chosen this career because they want to be the best they can be and do their job well. I tell my students that journalists are like superheroes: They don’t get paid very well, but they get to make a difference in the world nearly every day.”

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