Journalist Harry Rosenfeld, who served as managing editor at The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, spoke to more than 60 students at MTSU about topics covered in his book, “From Kristallnacht to Watergate: Memoirs of a Newspaperman” Wednesday evening in the Business and Aerospace Building.
Rosenfeld, 84, whose family escaped from Nazi Germany when he was a child, spoke on his role as an advisor to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they exposed the Watergate scandal that forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Rosenfeld said his career in journalism began in the 7th grade, when he served as the foreign editor for his school paper, which he called “very World War II.”
“In my hallowed youth I used to go to Union City, New Jersey once in a while,” he said, recalling his days as a recent high school graduate. “The reason we went to Union City was because it was the one place you could see burlesque shows.”
Rosenfeld got his first newspaper job as a shipping clerk at the New York Herald Tribune.
“Anything to do with my German childhood I totally rejected, pushed aside, suppressed,” he said of his adaptation to American life.
Rosenfeld said he had confidence in Woodward and Bernstein as they continued to report the illegal activities of the Nixon administration, beginning when the reporters linked government agencies to an attempted break-in at the Democratic National Convention in the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.
“Of course you trust people who work with you,” said Rosenfeld. “But that’s the beginning. They have to show you, they have to prove to you the quality of information when you start getting involved in a story like Watergate.”
Had Watergate happened in today’s media world, Rosenfeld said that the information “would have been released faster, but not as reliably,” emphasizing the challenges that journalists face in balancing speed with accuracy today.
“With the digital revolution having evolved the way it has and with social media having matured to the point where they are, it is a far different ball game, a much more serious ball game, and a much more frightening ball game that’s endangered the written word,” he said.
After the event, Rosenfeld answered questions from the audience and signed copies of his book.