The Role of News Media and Protection of its Confidential Sources

The Role of News Media and Protection of its Confidential Sources

            “If you think this was glamorous, it was not. It was smelly” (Shepard, 2003). This was how Bob Woodward, the other half of the “Woodstein” persona, perceived his journalism profession particularly his field of expertise which is news media. This view, which Woodward stated during a speaking engagement in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the celebrated Watergate Scandal, manifests how news media functions in American society. In presenting the true state and role of news media, Woodward even revealed that during the height of their reporting of the Watergate story, he and Carl Bernstein actually disagreed, fought with Washington Post editors and came to a point that they could not even afford taking a shower. This non-glamorization of the news media depicts the real characteristic and use of the news media profession. The way how Woodward and Bernstein saw and worked on the Watergate reporting is what should be the true essence and importance of the news media in the society. For Woodward and Bernstein, glamorization has no place in the world of news media. Their view on the role or purpose of the news media in American society, has led to the realization that news media works both as a conveyor of fair, true and accurate reporting as well as a catalyst of responsible journalism.

Role of News Media in American Society

            The above journalists’ view on the role or purpose of of the news media in the American society is worthy to take into consideration. This is because the profession indeed does not require for any sense of glamor. The challenges of news reporting and eventually the triumphs over the profession’s demands should always surpass any effort to glamorize the field. Watergate and the reporting made by Woodward and Bernstein led to the understanding that the news media profession entails honest and clear presentation of actual events and definitely not its glamorization. In so doing, news media requires its practitioners to exude responsible reporting by presenting hard facts and shying away from being glamorous. It is, therefore, the essence of the journalists’ news reports and revelation of the challenges and triumphs of their profession, and not its glamorization, that should be considered as the most significant role of news media in the American society.

Confidential Source as a Benefit to the Society

            One of the hard facts or realities of the news media profession is the existence of confidential sources. The Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman 1976 movie portrayal of Woodward’s and Bernstein’s book “All the President’s Men” discussed the nature and principle behind the use or existence of confidential sources in the news media. As depicted by the character under the name “Deep Throat,” the movie enabled the public to have a glimpse on one of the important figures in the world of news reporting. The existence or use of confidential sources has become an integral part of the news media. Presenting their credibility and accuracy of their information as well as justifying their protection are quite difficult to stress but was effectively manifest in the movie. This is because of the dispute whether a confidential source is a pure and credible whistle blower who is worth protecting or just a plain informant with personal motive and interest (“All the President’s Men,” Motion Picture, 1976).

            In the movie, Woodward and Bermstein determined the credibility of Deep Throat and accuracy of his information by not totally believing in every single detail or confirmation of other information that he provided. The two Washington Post reporters have agreed, for their safety, to share or discuss with other or their respective sources whatever Deep Throat has revealed or confirmed. In effect, this reservation made by Woodward and Bernstein worked to their advantage as they are able to solidify every news report they created. Although with a high regard for the position of Deep Throat in the government which made his information believable, Woodward and Bernstein examined carefully and double-checked with other sources all the details and confirmations provided by their confidential source (“All the President’s Men,” Motion Picture, 1976).

            Although the real identity of Deep Throat, as Mark Felt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, only became public in 2005 or known 33 years after the scandal, his existence, as made possible by Woodward and Bernstein, definitely benefited the American society. This is because the confidentiality of Deep Throat, as a source in a controversial scandal involving the American President, enabled Woodward and Bernstein to work on their news report in a free or liberated manner. The reporters were able to provide the society with a credible news report and at the same time protect Deep Throat by keeping his identity secret. Hence, the use of such principle provided the society the opportunity as well as the right to protect and solve a very important event such as the reported scandal committed by President Nixon. Adherence to the use of confidential sources is about the power of news reporters to do their tasks which is to provide  information. Additionally, it also served its very purpose or role as a functioning member of democratic nation. Removing a journalist’s choice to protect a credible source unfolds a chilling implication within the profession and definitely restraints the power of the news media to expose an anomaly and eventually bring vital information to light.


Goldman, W. (1976). All the President’s Men Motion Picture. Warner Bros. Pictures.

Shepard, A. C. (2003). Woodward and Bernstein Uncovered. Washingtonian. Retrieved July     11, 2008 from Washingtonian database.