Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Pack Rat

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Pack Rat

Article excerpt

THE BALANCING ACT

Once in a while, the first draft of history is the best one

Here's a little heresy: There are some stories to which there is no other side to the story.

This is not what is taught at j-schools. And, as a contrarian, I don't want to suggest that writers should not look at alternative interpretations of events. But too many attempts by naive reporters to let people air their versions of "the other side" is resulting in revisionist history that would make Stalin smile.

What stories do I mean? Let's start with references to the Holocaust: There's no reason for reporters to try to find an aged Nazi to furnish his anti-Semitic views for "balance." World War II: The Nazis were the aggressors, it was a bad thing, we were the good guys. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: See above. Pol Pot's genocide in the Killing Fields: No need to find an apologist to explain that we Westerners are simplistic and culturally handicapped because we don't condone slaying millions of innocent Cambodians. The list gets longer and may someday include the taking of furniture from the White House and the Marc Rich pardon. But, right now, there's one special story that has no other side: Watergate.

I bring this up because I took a trip to the Twilight Zone recently, and, by the time I was done, I wasn't sure who scared me more: jurors interviewed after a libel suit involving Watergate or The Washington Post reporter who gamely reiterated the events afterward with perfect objectivity.

Remember Watergate? President Richard Nixon resigned, and several very highly placed officials in the U.S. government went to jail. It was a big, bad event, and it shocked patriotic Americans who prayed that their leaders weren't involved.

But, in a federal courtroom in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago, jurors heard that Watergate had zippo to do with subverting the Constitution and undercutting an ongoing democratic presidential election. They were told, by G. Gordon Liddy and a strange group of his supporters, that the Watergate break-in and its related crimes were all about a prostitution ring. For years, Liddy's bitterness has permeated his talk show, interviews, and at least two speeches. He hates John Dean, who, for those of you too young to remember, was the key GOP official who spilled the beans on the top White House guys. To the Senate Watergate Committee, Dean was a hero. At the time he testified on Capitol Hill, the camera tended to stray to his pretty wife, Maureen.

Liddy, you may recall, was unrepentant. He didn't talk, and he didn't like those who did, even when the issue was the very integrity of the government and the security of our rule of law. …

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