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Bradlee, of course, was right in asking why journalists should entrust their reputations to actors: Hoffman and Redford are in their own world, with their wives, children, horses, other movies, other causes. The Post and its people stay behind in the daily world of newspapering. What happens to a couple of reporters when they become celebrities?
What happens to a newspaper when it becomes a legend? In the hothouse atmosphere of Washington, there are gusts of jealousy and predictions of trouble: too much self-satisfaction, it is muttered of the Post, too much success. Newsmen and newspapers, goes one rather convincing theory, should stay out of the limelight, should remain a little insecure and run scared to do their job well.
Trying to live up to its legend could well hurt the Post. But so far, it is still a
first-rate paper, though there is no doubt that it misses the excitement and the unifying cause of Watergate. As for Woodward and Bernstein, despite their new riches, they remain Post employees; their life-styles are a lot more comfortable but essentially unchanged from the days before their fame. Friends report no apparent danger that either is about to indulge in celebrity carryings-on. Indeed, they have spent the last year working at their trade, reporting the death throes of the Administration they were instrumental in bringing down. Their new book, The Final Days, to be published by Simon & Schuster (see box), is already an assured commercial success and, their agent believes, a cinch to set a new record for a paperback sale. They remain leaders of the Watergate industry they helped to found with their revelations. They are competing now with other reportage and memoirs, even novels (John Ehrlichman is about to publish one) by the people they helped to drive out of public office.
Meanwhile, All the President's Men is being judged by some tough audiences. It has already succeeded with the once suspicious Post crowd. Says Woodward: "The film taught me something about my business—seeing how they treated it and how they cared for it. The movie's not just pretty damned true, it is true. I just think, if reporters see it, they'll say, 'This is how we do it.' " Adds Bernstein: "They did a spectacular reporting job to do this movie. Good reporters get their sources to trust them, and that's what they did with us."
Last week Redford showed the movie to a few politicians and a group of Boston journalists who had served as sources during the preproduction phase. Mayor Kevin White proclaimed: "That film is going to have an effect on the election. That film is powerful." Boston Globe Editor Tom Winship rose at an afterscreening dinner to toast Redford as "a fine reporter and a good street man."