The Press: The Watergate Three

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When the Pulitzer Prizes are announced next week, the citation for public service by a newspaper—barring a last-minute reversal—will go to the Washington Post for its continuous digging into the Watergate case and related campaign scandals. Certainly the Post deserves credit for its tenacity But the trade knows that personal honors belong to an unlikely trio of relatively junior newsmen, the Post's District of Columbia editor, Barry Sussman, 38, and Reporters Carl Bernstein, 29, and Bob Woodward, 30. None of the three was accustomed to covering stories of national significance, all felt the intense heat of Administration denunciations that threatened to wilt their credibility, even among some fellow newsmen.

Their partnership began by accident. Sussman paid an unusual Saturday visit to the office last June 17 after learning that five men had been arrested that morning while breaking into Democratic headquarters. He borrowed Bernstein from the Virginia desk to check the five suspects and called in Woodward for help. These three—and other Post reporters—at first covered the story as a rather exotic local burglary Then, following the Democratic Convention in July, Managing Editor Howard Simons told Sussman to choose two reporters to work full time on Watergate; Sussman retained Bernstein and Woodward.

Insinuations. The team's most important news break came on Oct. 10, when it revealed the existence of a network of agents hired to undertake political espionage for the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, and named Donald Segretti as one of the operatives. Five days later, the Post (along with TIME) linked Segretti to Presidential Appointments Secretary Dwight Chapin. On Oct. 25, Woodward and Bernstein wrote that Presidential Aide H R. Haldeman had access to a secret campaign kitty used in part to fund political sabotage. Though other publications—principally TIME and the New York Times—kept up a steady rhythm of Watergate beats, Republican spokesmen reserved their harshest denunciations for the Post The paper appeared to have been caught in a serious gaffe when it reported that an important witness had established the Haldeman connection in testimony to a grand jury Such testimony was not given, though Bernstein and Woodward had obtained the information directly from the same person. Attacks by the Post's critics increased after the election, when Watergate stories faded for a time from the Post's pages.

There were insinuations that the Post had played the Watergate story heavily only to help George McGovern's election chances. The Post was naturally eager to disprove that notion. Working up to 16 hours a day, Bernstein and Woodward hounded C.R.P staffers in their homes and badgered White House aides with endless phone calls. "It was like selling magazine subscriptions," Bernstein remembers. "One out of every 30 people will feel sorry for you and buy one."

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