Christian Monterrosa October 6, 2017

The crowd fell silent as Carl Bernstein stepped into the floodlights atop the Watergate Hotel with the Potomac River in the background.      

Investigative reporters have been striving to get the next “gate” scandal since Bob Woodward and Bernstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation more than four decades ago.

For journalists from the Online News Association, this was a chance to meet a cultural icon at the location he made famous, courtesy of SmartNews, a digital media company that Bernstein would never have imagined existed during the Watergate reporting years.

Speaking to a crowd of his modern-day peers, Bernstein gave his outlook on the evolution of journalism. Here are our takeaways. 

1. Carl Bernstein

Carl Bernstein gives a speech on the current state of journalism on the rooftop of the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. (Christian Monterrosa/ ONA 17 Student Newsroom)

“It’s clear that something basic is not working in America today, that our system is straining almost to the breaking point both in our journalism and in our politics and in our larger culture,” Bernstein said.

2. All The President’s Men

Carl Bernstein signs a copy of his book, “All The President’s Men,” after giving his speech. (Christian Monterrosa / ONA 17 Student Newsroom)

After the speech and Q & A, Bernstein stepped off the stage and signed a few copies of “All the President’s Men.” The only thing missing was a flower pot with a flag sticking out of it–the method that Bernstein and Woodward’s prime confidential source, Deep Throat (uncovered as FBI associate director Mark Felt after his 2008 death) used to call a meeting.

3. The Rooftop View

The view from atop the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. (Christian Monterrosa / ONA 17 Student Newsroom)

ONA attendees stood at the rails and looked out into the views of the Potomac River and the city.

4. An Objective Response

ONA attendees lounge atop the Watergate Hotel waiting for Carl Bernstein to give a speech. (Christian Monterrosa / ONA 17 Student Newsroom)

Even in a party atmosphere, journalists conditioned to show no response during a public presentation, carried their lack of reaction with them to Bernstein’s speech. A veteran public speaker, Bernstein seemed surprised not to get the applause that a non-journalist crowd might have given.

With lines that would usually elicit cheers, just a few stragglers responded with tentative claps.   

5. The Next Whisky Bar

The Whisky Bar in the lobby of the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC. (Christian Monterrosa/ ONA 17 Student Newsroom)

After Bernstein’s speech, attendees with a more particular taste in liquor sat at the Next Whisky Bar in the lobby of the Watergate Hotel.

Snapchat Recap: Carl Bernstein at The Watergate Hotel from ONAnewsroom on Vimeo.