By Sheena Samu
Last night, Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism celebrated the 50th lecture of their My Life As series with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author, Carl Bernstein.
Bernstein also joined the Stony Brook faculty this year as a visiting presidential professor.
Bernstein became iconic in history after he and fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, uncovered the Watergate scandal in 1972, which later led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Woodward is currently a guest professor at Yale University.
Dustin Hoffman portrayed Bernstein in the Academy Award-winning film “All the President’s Men” in 1976 — a remake of the book he wrote with Woodward describing the reporting process they went through for the Watergate scandal.
“My experience in college makes me all the more appreciate your achievements here,” says Bernstein starting off his lecture for the night.
He goes on to explain how he dropped out of the University of Maryland, and it’s a decision he is still happy about today.
“I’m lucky I discovered at a young age what I love to do,” he says. “I was educated in the newsroom.”
At the age of 16, Bernstein went to work full time at the Washington Star. He was immediately drawn to the fact that everyone around him knew how to have the time of their lives while doing what they loved.
“For those pursuing journalism,” says Bernstein reassuring his audience, “there is every opportunity to have that same sense of drama, excitement and accomplishment that I had in my 50 years.”
Bernstein, from the beginning of his speech, brought out a sense of urgency for the aspiring journalists.
“Our job is to pursue the best attainable version of the truth,” he says. “It’s a simple phrase but difficult to achieve.”
He made his case by describing the news media’s coverage of the government shutdown. According to Bernstein, the only people who are properly explaining the situation are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Bernstein explains that the way journalism was taught to him was through fairness, perseverance, common sense, respect and a good work ethic.
“The opposite is too often the case,” he says. “Journalists of your generation need to break through this culture of ideological warfare. We need to get back to this idea of the best attainable version of the truth.”
Bernstein continually reminds the journalists in the room to use their common sense. One way he stresses, is by being a good listener, realizing what’s important and what’s not.
“We become pawns in the idea that manufactured controversy becomes a substitute for real news,” he says, praising Stewart and Colbert for their ability to see past the manufacturing.
“The press is also there to entertain — good writing should be entertaining, but the basic contextual thing we need to do is present the world around us,” says Bernstein. “Our job is not to be popular.”
Bernstein ends his lecture noting that he’s optimistic of our generation to “say enough of this crap.”
Bernstein notes that he enjoys young people, which is why he decided to start teaching. Throughout his lecture he recalls instances he had with his current class, noting that his students are also teaching him.
Bernstein is also signed up to lecture for the departments of English, political science, history, sociology and writing and rhetoric.