From Muckrakers To Buckrakers


| April 30, 2003


Legendary Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein just made journalistic history with the $5.5 million sale of their Watergate papers to the University of Texas at Austin. What?s troubling about the sale, argues former George magazine editor Richard Blow in a commentary on TomPaine.com, is not its record price tag. It?s the fact that the pair chose to charge anything at all. While many book authors have long charged handsome sums for their papers and personal libraries, news reporters have traditionally shunned the practice. ?That?s why Walter Cronkite, Harry Reasoner, and Andy Rooney all donated their papers to the University of Texas,? writes Blow. ?They respected the tradition that says those who traffic in information can support its dissemination by donating their papers to universities.? Ironically, Blow predicts, this precedent will make journalists more secretive about their information, and lead to greater corporate influence in the newsroom, as employers try to cash in doubly on their reporters? work. The sale of the ?Woodstein? collection ?may make them richer, [but] it doesn?t enrich the profession, or the regard in which the public holds it.?
?Leif Utne

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