“All the President’s Men” (Then & Now)

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(Jacob Morch)

By Mohammed Michael Harfoush

“All the President’s Men” is a film that follows the events that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation from the presidency of the United States. The film, as well as the events it portrays, took place in the 1970s. The time period does a lot to highlight the challenges journalists faced back then and the methods they had to use to communicate effectively.

In today’s world, we’re used to texting each other, emailing colleagues, searching library databases in seconds, and rarely take a moment to look back to appreciate how far communication has come since the days of yelling as loud as one could to be heard, or using the pony express to get a message to someone.

“All the President’s Men” has two main characters, Woodward and Bernstein. They are the two journalists responsible for bringing the Watergate Scandal to the public’s attention, and exposing the corruption of the Nixon administration. Through following their activities, viewers gets a glimpse at how it was to be a journalists not too long ago.

One thing that stood out in the film, was just how slow things moved back then. Perhaps the movie had a pacing problem, if so, that’s the editor’s fault — but that’s beside the point. They had no mobile phones that put effective communication at their fingertips. They had to either do their work physically in the same space, or wait until they saw each other again to share what they uncovered.

Landline phones were another conspicuous presence in the film. It was bad enough that someone had to actually be physically home to talk to someone not in the room with them, but the cord on the phone served as an additional chain to the home or office.

Libraries were both a place to be dreaded, and a treasure trove to be riffled through, back in the 1970s. There were no computers one could go on and search a few keywords to find what they were looking for. Journalists had to search through card catalogues and numerous clips to discover what they were looking for. I could take hours, maybe even days, to uncover anything of value to them. Every second you spent looking through hard copies of old publications, resulted in time lost trying to beat a competitor to a story.

Toward the end of the film, Woodward and Bernstein realize the apartment they are in, is possibly bugged. In today’s day and age, we would text each other what we wanted the other to know if we couldn’t talk to each other directly, but Woodward and Bernstein had to actually sit down at a type writer, and type out what they wanted to tell each other, while the other looked over their shoulder.

Perhaps I would have gotten used to the pace of things back then, and not minded the slower and more rudimentary forms of communication, but having been raised in the internet age, I can’t imagine what a miracle today’s world must seem to those who actually lived through the technological dark age of the mid 1900s, and have a living memory of how it used to be.

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