My Mentor: Rod Liddle on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein

There it was - journalism portrayed as a truly heroic occupation

Woodward and Bernstein were why we should want to be journalists. They uncovered the criminality and duplicity at the heart of the Nixon administration and I thought it was a wonderful thing.

Journalism is basically gossip. It's us reporting what other people have told us, or what we've found out. I always considered it to be gossip until I read All the President's Men aged 14, and I suddenly realised it had a noble use. There it was - journalism portrayed as a truly heroic and intellectually fulfilling occupation by these two journalists who brought down a corrupt and authoritarian administration.

Woodward and Bernstein were the reason I was the youngest reporter on the South Wales Echo, and their principles applied to a lot of young people there. They made us proud to be journalists and instilled in me a thesis about journalism which I've never lost, which is that a journalist is someone quite pure and someone dedicated to rooting out hypocrisy, venality, wrong-doing and political corruption. At least professionally. I would never claim to be pure in my private life.

I was offered a scholarship at the Washington Post when I was at the BBC and I think I should have taken it. You have to take far bigger risks today but I don't think people are prepared to do that. The level of control by politicians is far greater than it ever was, even back in America in the early 1970s. Woodward and Bernstein's relentless pursuit of the truth was exciting.

What they did was the point of journalism. You shouldn't want to be a journalist because it's an easy career and you can study it and get a job. You should want to be a journalist because you wish to tell people the truth, or what you perceive to be the truth.

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